(News Item & Advertisement)
Nos. 11,658 & 11,681
London, Sept, 7 & Oct. 4, 1822
(no author listed)
[ Saturday, Sept. 7, 1822, p. 3 ]
Note: Reports similar to this appeared in numerous English language newspapers during the summer of 1822. The news may have originated with a mysterious "Dr. McQuy" (or McQueen) in Jamaica, near the end of April. See the Newport Rhode-Island Republican of May 1, 1822 for an early version of this news item. Although The Times appears to have been the first periodical to publish the Palenque report to British readers, several American papers ran the item earlier that summer, including the Hartford American Mercury of July 1, 1822; the Batavia, NY Republican Advocate of July 5, 1822; the Boston Commercial Gazette of July 18, 1822; and the Rhode Island Providence Patriot of July 27, 1822.
[ Friday, Oct. 4, 1822, p. 4 ]
DON ANTONIO DEL RIO'S DISCOVERY of the RUINS of an ANCIENT CITY, in the Kingdom of Guatimali [sic], in Spanish America, with Dr. P. F. Cabrera's Analysis and Dissertation on the same, and his Solution respecting the Origin of the Population; 1 vol. 4to, plates, &c. ... Printed for H. Berthoud, jun. at his French, Italian, and English circulating library, 65 Regent's quadrant, Piccadilly.
"Description of the Ruins..."
London Literary Gazette
London, Nov. 2, 1822
(no author listed)
[ 705 ]
Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City discovered near Palenque, Kingdom of Guatemala, in America;
from the Original Report of Captain Don Antonio dal Rio: followed by a Critical Investigation into the History of the
Americans, by Doctor Paul F. Cabrera. 4to. pp. 198. London 1822. H. Berthoud.
"Description of the Ruins..."
The Eclectic Review
Vol. XVIII No. 6
London, Dec. 1822
(no author listed)
[ 523 ]
Art. IV. Description of the Ruins of an Ancient City, discovered near Palenque, in the Kingdom of Guatemala, in Spanish America: translated from the Original Manuscript Report of Captain Don Antonio del Rio, followed by a Critical Investigation and Research into the History of the Americas. By Doctor Paul Felix Cabrera, of the city of New Gautemala. 4to. pp. xiv, 128. (17 plates.) Price 1 l. 8 s. London. 1822.
A short text and a long comment are no more and no worse than might reasonably be looked for in such a case as the present. The bare fact[s], without any description, were sufficient to afford matter for a whole dissertation. Here are the remains of an undoubted Mexican city discovered within the recesses of the New World, where, for aught we know, Yuhidthiton once reigned, whom Mr. Southey has immortalized in his "Madoc;" but the history of which, could its history be revealed, would doubtless stretch back far away into the twilight of time. Here are stone buildings and brick buildings, with bas-reliefs and hieroglyphics, enough to put the whole French National Institute on the alert; and who knows but Monsieur Dupruis may discover, among other strange things here represented, another zodiac to rectify the Mosaic chronology? Captian del Rio talks of excavations too, which are to lead to further discoveries, in a style that must rouse all the slumbering energies of Belzoni, should this volume ever fall in his way; and but for the rather unsettled state of the country
[ 524 ]
just now under his Majesty the new Emperor of Mexico and his allies, we should not despair of soon being in possession of some English traveller's description of the Palencian city. It seems that the existence of these ruins was known to the indefatigable Humboldt, when exploring the wonders of New Spain; and 'if the learned gentleman had not been at an immense distance from that part of the country where the ruins lay, there is no doubt,' remarks the Editor, 'but he would have visited these extraordinary remains.' The wish that he had, is unaviling: we must be content with the statement of Capt. del Rio, which was drawn up in the year 1787, in the shape of a Report to the Governor and Commandant General of the kingdom of Guatemala, &c., and is stated to have been brought to light in the recent examination of the public archives of the city of new Guatemala, among which it was deposited.
In compliance with the royal mandate, bearing date May 15th, 1786, 'relative to another examination of the ruins discovered in the city of Palenque in the Province of Ciudad Real de Chiapa in New Spain,' Don Antonio, provided with a corps of Indians as opineers, proceeded to Casas de Piedras (stone houses), as the ruins are called; and after spending, as it should seem, a fortnight in felling and firing the timber with which the ruins were inaccessibly surrounded, succeeded in opening a clear path, and obtaining a wholesome atomosphere for his further operations. 'By dint of perseverance,' he effected, he says, 'all that was necessary to be done; so that ultimately there remained neither a window nor a door-way blocked up, a partition that was not thrown down, nor a room, corridor, court, tower, nor subterranean passage in which excavations were not effected from two to three yards in depth.' The Captain's description of the site, is as follows:
'From Palenque, the last town northward in the province of Ciudad Real de Chiapa, taking a south-westerly direction, and ascending a ridge of high land that divides the kingdom of Guatemala from Yucatan, or Campeachy, at the distance of two leagues, is the little river Micol, whose waters flowing in a westerly direction unite with the great river Tulija, which bends its course towards the province of Tabasco; having passed Micol, the ascent begins, and at half a league from thence, the traveller crosses a little stream called Otolum, discharging its waters into the before-mentioned current: from this point, heaps of ruins are discovered, which render the road very difficult for another half league; when you gain the height whereon the Stone Houses are situated, being fourteen in number, some more dilapidated than others, but still having many of their apartments perfectly discernible.
'A rectangular area, three hundred yards in breadth by four hundred
[ 525 ]
and fifty in length, presents a plain at the base of the highest mountain forming the ridge; and in the centre is situated the largest of these structures which has been as yet discovered. It stands on a mound twenty yards high, and is surrounded by the other edifices, namely; five to the northward, four to the southward, one to the south-west, and three to the eastward. In all directions, the fragments of other fallen buildings are to be seen extending along the mountain, that stretches east and west about three or four leagues either way; so that the whole range of this ruined town may be computed to extend between seven and eight leagues, but its breadth is by no means equal to its length, being little more than half a league wide at the point, where the ruins terminate, which is towards the river Micol, that winds round the base of the mountain, whence descend small streams that wash the foundation of the ruins on their banks; so that, were it not for the thick umbrageous foliage of the trees, they would present to the view so many beautiful serpentine rivulets.
Under the largest building, there runs 'a subterranean stone aqueduct of great solidity and durability,' which the worthy Don considers undoubted proof of the builders having had some intercourse with the Romans; but, unfortunately, he neglects to state the precise grounds of his opinion. Whether the aqueduct rests upon arches, is not stated. This 'charming locality' exhibits all the signs of a fertile soil: an abundance of wild fruit-trees, such as the 'sapotes, acquacate, camote, yaca or cassava, and plantain,' indicate what the soil would furnish under proper cultivation. The rivers abound with the moharra, bobo, turtle, and the lesser shell-fish, and running to the East, North, and West, afford the utmost facility to inland traffic. Not to make ourselves responsible for the vagueness and blunders of the description of the edifices in question, we must give it in the Translator's own words, only with a little abridgement.
'The interior of the large building is in a style of architecture strongly resembling the Gothic, and from its rude and massive construction, promises great durability. The entrance is on the eastern side, by a portico or corridor thirty-six yards (varas) in length and three in breadth, supported by plain rectangular pillars, without either bases or pedestals, upon which there are square smooth stones of more than a foot in thickness forming an architrave; while on the exterior superficies are shields of a species of stucco; and over these stones, there is another plain rectangular block, five feet long and six broad, extending over two of the pillars. Medallions or compartments in stucco, containing different devices of the same material, appear as decorations to the chambers; and it is presumable from the vestiges of the heads which can still be traced, that they were the busts of a series of kings or lords to whom the natives were subject. Between the medallions there is a range of windows like niches, passing from one end of the wall to the other;
[ 526 ]
some of them are square, some in form of a Greek cross, being about two feet high and eight inches deep. Beyond the corridor, there is a square court entered by a flight of seven steps. The north side is entirely in ruins, but sufficient traces remain to shew that it once had a chamber and corridor similar to those on the eastern side, and which continued entirely along the several angles. The south side has four small chambers with no other ornament than one or two little windows like those already described. The western side is correspondent to its opposite in all respects, but in the variety of expression of the figures in stucco: these are much more rude and ridiculous than the others, and can be attributed only to the most uncultivated Indian capacity. The device is a sort of grotesque mask with a crown and long beard like that of a goat, under this are two Greek crosses, one within in the other.
'Proceeding in the same direction, there is another court similar in length to the last, but not so broad, having a passage round it that communicated with the opposite side; in this passage there are two chambers like those above mentioned, and an interior gallery, looking on one side upon the court-yard, and commanding on the other a view of the open country. In this part of the edifice, some pillars yet remain, on which are the relievos apparently representing the sacrifice of some wretched Indian, the destined victim of a sanguinary religion.
'Returning by the south side, the tower presents itself to notice: it height is sixteen yards; and to the four existing stories of the building * was perhaps added a fifth with a cupola. These stories diminish in size and are without ornament. The tower has a well imitated artificial entrance..... Behind the four chambers already mentioned, there are two others of larger dimensions, very well ornamented in the rude Indian style, and which appear to have been used as oratories. Beyond these oratories, and extending from north to south, are two apartments, each twenty seven yards long by little more than three broad; they contain nothing worthy of notice, excepting a stone of an elliptical form, embedded in the wall, about a yard above the pavement, the height of which is one yard and a quarter, and the breadth one yard. Below this stone, is a plain rectangular block, more than two yards long by one yard and seven inches thick, placed upon four feet in form of a table, with a figure in bas-relief in the attitude of supporting it. Characters or symbols adorn the edges of the table. At the extremity of this apartment, and on a level with the pavement, there is an aperture like a hatchway, two yards long and more than one broad, leading to a subterranean passage by a flight of steps, which, at a regular distance, forms flats or landings, each having its respective door-way, ornamented in the front. Other openings lead to this subterranean avenue. On reaching the second door, artificial light was necessary to continue the descent into this gloomy abode, which was by a very gentle declivity. It has a turning at right angles; and at the end of the side passage, there is another door communicating with a
* There are only three floors in the subjoined etching.
[ 527 ]
chamber sixty-four yards long, and almost as large as those already described; beyond this room there is still another, similar in every respect, and having light admitted into it by some windows commanding a corridor * fronting the South, and leading to the exterior of the edifice. Neither bas-reliefs nor any other embellishments were found in these places, nor did they present to notice any object, except some plain stones, two yards and a half long, by one yard and a quarter broad, arranged horizontally upon four square stands of masonry, rising about half a yard above the ground. These I consider to have been receptacles for sleeping. Here all the doors terminated.
'On an eminence to the South is another edifice, of about forty yards in height, forming a parallelogram, and resembling the first in its style of architecture. It has square pillars, an exterior gallery, and a saloon twenty yards long by three and a half broad, embellished with stucco medio-reliefs, representing female figures with children in their arms, all of the natural size: these figures are without heads. In the inner wall of the gallery, on each side of the door leading into the saloon, there are three stones, three yards in height and upwards of one broad, covered with the hieroglyphics in bas-relief. The whole of this gallery and saloon are paved.
'Leaving this structure, and passing by the ruins of many others, which are probably accessory to the principal edifice, the declivity conducts to an open space, whereby the approach to another house in a southerly direction is rendered practicable.... Eastward of this structure are three small eminences forming a triangle, upon each of which is a square building, eighteen yards long by eleven broad, of the same architecture as the former, but having along thin roofings, several superstructures about three yards high, resembling turrets, covered with ornaments and devices in stucco. In the interior of the first of these three mansions, at the end of a gallery almost entirely dilapidated, is a saloon having a small chamber at each extremity. In the centre of the saloon is an oratory, rather more than three yards square, presenting on each side of the entrance, a perpendicular stone, whereon is portrayed the image of a man in bas-relief. The outward decoration is confined to a sort of moulding finished with small stucco bricks, on which are bas-reliefs. The pavement of the oratory is quite smooth, and eight inches thick. On perforating it in order to make an excavation, I found, about half a yard deep, a small round earthen vessel, about a foot in diameter, fitted horizontally with a mixture of lime to another of the same quality and dimensions. The digging being continued, a quarter of a yard beneath, we discovered a circular stone of rather larger diameter than the first articles; and on removing this, a cylindrical cavity presented itself, about a foot wide and the third of a foot deep, containing a flint lance, (lance-head?) two small conical pyramids with the figure of a heart in dark crystallized stone, (known by the name of challa,) and two small earthen jars with covers, containing small stones and a ball of vermilion.'
* How this consists with its subterraneous position, we cannot explain: there is probably some error.
[ 528 ]
The other two edifices are of similar architecture, and divided internally in the same manner; and here also, the Don states, were found, by excavating under what he calls the oratories, a flint lance or lance-head, two conical pyramids with the representation of a heart, and two earthen jars. On digging in other parts, they found small pieces of challa 'in the shape of lancets or razor-blades,' and a number of small bines and teeth, which, together with specimens of the masonry, and representations of the principal bas-reliefs, were forwarded by Don Antonio to the Commandant General, in order to be transmitted to Europe.
We shall not stop to point out the obvious inaccuracies of the preceding account, since ehat appears obscure or inconsistent, may very possibly have been rendered so by the transcriber or the translator. The publication certainly appears under great disadvantages. The lithographic plates are given without any explanation or even numeration, so that there are no figures answering to the references continually occurring in the Report. For this, however, the present Publisher is not responsible, the drawings which accompanied the MS. are also without references. To these copies, (for we cannot look upon them as originals,) which we have ourselves compared with the plates, the Engraver has so faithfully adhered, that in the first plate, containing a sort of ground-plan of one of the edifices, the Spanish terms for the four cardinal points, &c. have not even been translated. A still grosser instance of ignorance or carelessness occurs in the 'table of Mexican years,' in the transcribing of which from pages of a different size, the numerical order has got transposed in the most perplexing and ridiculous manner. There are other blunders which we presume to be typographical.
There is but one plate representing any of the edifices. This is, we presume, the tower referred to: it has two receding stories, and has evidently been carried higher. The windows are square, within arvhed niches somewhat rudely cut; and between each story, a double frieze or ledge runs round the building. Branches of trees appear to have forced their way through the walls. The other plates contain representations of the bas-reliefs. These chiefly consist of figures in varied dresses and attitudes, and with different accompaniments, but all more or less decorously clothed, with caps or helmets adorned with flowers, pearls, and sundry non-descript ornaments. Necklaces and strings of pearls are a conspicuous decoration of most of the figures. But the most striking quality of these representations is, the physiognomy of the countenances, which is of one strongly marked character, though
[ 529 ]
the individuals differ. A prodigious development of feature, especially of that which should be called the nose, but which, in these personages, comes nearer to a beak, in common to all of them; in almost all, the chin recedes not less remarkably than the proboscis protrudes; while some of the visages have the additional recomendation of being fearfully under-hung. This is especially the case with an old priest in a cap and apron, who has got an infant in his arms, doubtless with no very good purpose. In one of the plates, a personage whom we take to be a deity, is seated on a curious sort of throne, with one leg brought up into the lap, and the other depending, very much after the fashion of some Hindoo celestials, who prefer very odd and uncomfortable postures. This personage is very significantly pointing upwards with the fore-finger of the left hand, while the middle finger of the right is brought to rest emphatically upon the thumb, like a person talking with his fingers. The throne is ornamented with an enormous head and claw of an animal on each side of it; and perched on these heads are two undefined imp-like forms with something resembling a flame proceeding from their forehead. In the next plate, a medallion of inferior execution, represents a personage adorned with ear-rings, necklace, and bracelets, but no clothing except round the waist, seated a la Turque on a two-headed monster, and receiving a present from a full-dressed figure in a kneeling attitude. A smaller medallion in the rudest style, represents a tree with a serpent twining round the trunk, and a bird perched on a branch hard by; and another presents a naked youth kneeling, and looking into the open jaws of a monstrous head, while another pair of tusks are protruding at his back. It is observable, that none of the figures have a martial character, nor have they any weapon at all resembling a sword. But what the strange instruments are which they hold, or what they are engaged in, and what is the import of the strange hieroglyphics flourished round the largest drawing, no one can tell, -- we beg pardon, unless it be Doctor Paul Felix Cabrera. He, with an ingenuity and penetration truly marvelous, finds out the whole history of America in these rude representations, and tells us who the personages are, as readily as if they had all been his patients. The principal figure, it seems, is no other than Votan, great-grandson of Noah, who was the first man sent by God to America 'to divide and portion out 'these Indian lands.' He was not only a great prince, but an historical writer; an account of his birth, parentage, and adventures, drawn up by himself, fell into the hands of the bishop of Chiapa, Don Francisco Nunez de la Vega, author of the "Diocesan Constitutions," printed at Rome in 1702, who
[ 530 ]
was led to withhold it from the public only by his religious scruples, 'on account of the mischievous use the Indians made 'of their histories in their superstition of nagualism,' or demonology. It is much regretted, as the Doctor very sapiently observes, 'that the place is unknown where the precious documents of history were deposited.' But a still more lamentable loss to the world has been sustained in the destruction, by the hands of the same orthodox but over-zealous prelate, of certain large earthen vases containing figures in stone of the ancient Indian Pagans, which the unerring testimony of tradition ascribed to the same worthy American patriarch, and which consequently must have been the most ancient pottery now to be met with. It is possible, however, the Doctor assures us for our consolation,
'that Votan's historical tract alluded to by Nunez de la Vega, or another similar to it, may be the one which is now in the possession of Don Ramon de Ordonez y Aguiar, a native of Ciudad Real; he is a man of extraordinary genius, and engaged at this time, in composing a work, the title of which I have seen, being as follows, Historia del Cielo y de la Tierra; that will not only embrace the original population of America, but trace its progress from Chaldea immediately after the confusion of tongues; its mystical and moral theology, its mythology and most important events. His literary acquirements, his application to, and study of the subject for more than thirty years, his skill in the Tzendal language, in which idiom the tract just spoken of is written, and the many excellent authors he has collected, lead us to anticipate a work, so perfect in its kind, as will completely astonish the world.'
There is so little attention paid to Spanish literarure in this country, that we have serious apprehensions that the work of Don Ramon will never find its way to us. The title, however, which the Doctor assures us that he had actually seen, is enough to provoke any one's curiosity. But we must be allowed to doubt whether, when completed, it will deserve to be styled a perfect work of its kind, since it promises to embrace only 'the history of heaven and earth,' whereas a perfect history should include at least that of the moon, if not that of the solar system. But to return to Doctor Cabrera. The second fifure, holding mute dialogue with Votan, is no other than the Egyprian Osiris: 'the mitre or cap with bull's horns on his head, removes all doubts' on this point. And his godship is seen at the feet of Votan, on one of these bas-reliefs, 'supplicating to be taken to America, to be there known and adored.'!!! Other proofs of the identity of the American and the Egyptian rites, insisted upon by the learned Dissertator, decency forbids our adverting to. But, in short, such is the
[ 531 ]
unequivocal evidence supplied by these precious documents, backed by the Doctor's learned authorities, that the reader is 'forced to acknowledge, this history of the origin of the Americans excels those of the Greeks, the Romans, and the most celebrated nations of the world, and is even worthy of being compared with that of the Hebrews themselves.' Thus, at one blow, the venerable traditions or ingenious hypotheses which would deduce the aborigines of the New World from the Phenicians, the Philistines, the Carthaginians, or the Ten Tribes, to say nothing of Captain del Rio's notion of their Roman connexions, -- are all swept away as falling far short of their remote antiquity. But then, happily for the credit of Moses, and to the utter confusion of Isaac Peyere and other infidels, who have denied that all the human race are the descendants of Adam and Eve, Dr. Cabrera has proved the Americans not to have been Pre-Adamites.
We had intended to offer a remark or two on these remains, on the supposition that they might have a somewhat less remote origin. According to the testimony of the holy father of the Convent of Merida, who gave the account to Captain del Rio, about twenty leagues from that city southward, are the remains of several stone edifices, one of which is said to be large and in good preservation: the natives know it by the name of Oxmutal. Eight leagues to the northward of Merida are the ruined walls of several other houses, which are stated to increase in number in an easterly direction. At Mani on the river Lagartos, we are told, there is 'a very ancient palace' resembling that at Palenque, which was for some time inhabited by the Franciscans while their convent was building; and in the middle of the principal square is said to stand a conical pillar or pyramid, built of stones. Lastly, on the road from Merida to Bacalar there occur many other buildings. Humboldt refers to the ruins of an Azteck city to the north of Mexico, on the banks of the Rio Gila; and these Stone Houses would probably be referred, by persons not possessed of Doctor Cabrera's learning, to the same people. Admitting this supposition for a moment, these traces of an extinct nation would still be highly interesting; for, in these rude structures and decorations, even though we should conclude them to be the productions of a post-Christian era, we should still have, in all probability, the fac-similes of the works of their ancestors. 'Savage nations, remarks Humboldt, 'and those civilized people who are condemned by their political and religious institutions always to imitate themselves, strive as if by instinct to perpetuate the same forms, to preserve a peculiar
[ 532 ]
type or style, and to follow the methods and processes which were exmplyed by their ancestors.' This remark he considers as peculiarly applying to the Hindoos, the Tibetians, the Chinese, the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecks, and the Peruvians with whom the tendency of the body towards civilization, has prevented the free development of the faculties of individuals. The actual date, then, of the particular specimen of art which may be brought to light, is, according to this view, a matter of subordinate importance, since it may be considered as a cast from a far more ancient mould, as the traditional imitation of a primitive model. All figures are beardless. The protruding under-lip is so much out of nature, that it must be attributed to artificial means. Some of the Indian tribes are known to wear pieces of wood, or bone, in their under-lip. We should have remarked, that one of the figures has, suspended from the neck, a very pretty ornament, which seems meant for an image of the sun. Other drawings are referred to in the Report, though they did not find their way with the MS. to the Publisher, representing serpents, lizards, statues of men with palms in their hands, others beating drums and dancing, &c. &c. These might possibily have thrown further light on the national character and filiation of the Palencians, had not Doctor Cabrera settled the question. He has actually 'solved the grand historical problem.' without them, and further data would only have detracted from the merit of his achievement. What more can be desired than sufficient evidence, such as shall leave incredulity without excuse? If our readers are not by this time as wise as Doctor Cabrera, it is not our fault.
"Description of the Ruins..."
New Monthly Magazine
and Literary Journal
Vol. VI No. 24
London, Dec. 1822
(no author listed)
The original MS. of Captain Antonio del Rio's report, together with the investigation, written in consequence of that officer's researches, by Dr. Paul Felix Cabrera, were deposited in the archives of the city of New Guatemala, from whence they were obtained by a gentleman who was for many years a resident in that city, and are now open for public inspection, at Mr. Berthoud'e, the publisher of ihe present volume. The period of Captain Del Rio's discoveries was 1787; that of Cabrera's remarks on the original population of America was in 1794. The apathy of the old Spanish character, and the jealousy of the nation with respect to their possessions in Mexico, occasioned this silence for so many years on a subject so very interesting. But the events of the Spanish revolution have expanded the public mind, and have made even the functionaries of government liberal and curious enough to explore the long-treasured documents of thu public archives. With respect to the authenticity of this record, and the existence of the Palencian city, the editor before us begs leave to remark, that the distance from Palenque, in the district of Carmen, province of Chiapa, to the ruins of the Palencian city, is no more than fifteen miles; and if any farther confirmation is required upon this head, on referring to Mr. Humbuldi's Travels in America it will be found that the existence of this ruined city was known to that traveller, who not only makes mention of its existence, but has inserted an engraving from one of the pictorial illustrations of the present volume.
The editor of this account of the discovered city farther remarks, that references will be found to drawings mentioned by Captain Del Rio, which did not fall into the hands of the possessor of these details, while other designs are described which do not appear to coincide precisely with any of the accompanying plates. But on this point he observes, that he has presented to the world every relic in his possession, and has no doubt but the spirit of enquiry will be powerfully awakened by the results of the matter which he has given.
In this matter, the dissertation of Doctor Cabrera is incomparably the least interesting part. He is learned, but very superstitious, and wildly speculative. The Spanish Captain's account of what he excavated and saw forms the kernel of the book. We shall abridge a few scattered passages which illustrate the curious subject of the ancient stone buildings which lie explored. These lhouses are situated on a height, and are fourteen in number, some of them being more dilapidated than others, but still having many of their apartments perfectly discernible. A rectangular area, three hundred yards in breadth, by four hundred and fifty in length, presents a plain at the base of the highest mountain forming a ridge; and in the centre is situated the largest of these structures which has been as yet discovered. It stands on a mound twenty yards high, and is surrounded by the other edifices. Besides the fourteen buildings already mentioned, the fragments of other fallen houses are to be seen extending in all directions along the mountain that stretches east and west about three or four leagues either way, so that, according to Captain Del Rio, the whole range of this ruined town may be computed to have extended between seven and eight leagues; but its breadth is by no means equal to its length, being little more than half a league wide at the point where the ruins terminate. Besides great beauty of situation, Capt. Del Rio thinks that this town must have possessed from its soil and climate an abundance of the necessaries of life. This is apparent from such wild fruits as the Sapotes, Acquacates, Cumotes. Yuca or Cassava, and plantains, being found in great plenty. The rivers abound with fish, viz. the Moharra Bobo and turtle, as the smaller streams do with crabs and the lesser species of shell-fish. The laborious workmanship of their edifices, constructed without the assistance of iron or other metals, at least demonstrate that numbers must have been supported in the performance of such labours on food raised for them by others. The interior of the largest building is in a style of architecture strongly resembling the Gothic, and from its rude and massive construction promises great durability. The entrance is on the eastern side by a portico or corridor, thirty-six yards in length and three In breadth, supported by plain rectangular pillars, without either bases or pedestals; upon which there are square smooth stones of more than a foot in thickness, forming an architrave, while on the exterior superficies are species of stucco shields, with designs. * Over these a stones there is another plain rectangular block, five feet long and six broad, extending over two of the pillars. Medallions or compartments in stucco, containing different devices of the same material, appear as decorations to the chambers; and it is presumable from the vestiges of the heads which can still be traced, that they were the busts of a series of kings or lords to whom the natives were subject. Between the medallions there is a range of windows like niches, passing from one end of the wall to the other: some of them are in the form of a Greek cross -- others are square, and about two feet high and eight inches deep. Beyond this corridor there is a square court, entered by a flight of seven steps. The north side is entirely in ruins, but sufficient traces remain to shew thai it once had a chamber and corridor similar to those on the eastern side, and which continued entirely along the several angles. The south side has four small chambers with a few windows like those already described. The western side is correspondent to its opposite in all respects, but in the variety of expression in the figures of stucco. These are much more rude and ridiculous than the others, and can only be attributed to the most uncultivated Indian capacity. The device device is a sort of a grotesque masque, with a crown and long beard like that of a goat. He describes another court, in which there were two chambers like those above-mentioned, and an interior gallery looking on one side upon the court-yard and commanding on the other a view of the open country. In this part of the edifice, Captain Del Rio found some pollars with relievos, apparently representing the mournful subject of a human sacrifuce. The Captain transported with him the head of the sufferer, and the foot and leg of the executioner, as specimens of the sculpture and stucco.
It would not be fair to make mire copious extracts from a work which, though curious, is but short: at least the descriptive part is not extensive. On the whole, we have read it with a satisfactory anticipation that it will lead the way to still further research and discoveries of American antiquities. Of these buildings and sculpture being of a date long anterior to the occupation of America by the Spaniards, we see no possibility of entertaining a doubt. It is true, that the occurrence of the figure of a Greek cross might induce a casual observer to suspect, that this ornament in the Palencian city had connexion with Christianity; but it is well known to all who are conversant with ancient mythology, that the figure of a cross wat often introduced in the symbols of superstition, much older than Christianity. The augural staff of the Romans, and the Egyptian staff of Osiris, were of this form. Every thing else in these relics denotes people unconnected with Christianity. They often seem to remind us of Egyptian costume end ornament. The noses are peculiarly high and prominent in the physiognomics, which, together with thick and underhung lips, make them as different from the present race of Mexicans as are the black Egyptians of the present day to the brickdust-coloured representations of the natives of antiquity.
* These designs are spoken of by Captain Rio as accompanying his Report, and numbered 1, 2, 3. Among the lithographic designs given in the Work before us, there are figures which have every appearance of representing shields; but Mr. Berthoud has given no numeral arrangement to the designs of his book, so that we only guess these to be the shields described by Captain Del Rio.
Don Domingo Juarros
Statistical... History of
The Kingdom of Guatemala
London: John Hearne, 1823
[ 18-19 ]
St. Bartholomew de los Llanos is also a very large village; it has two churches, and the population, including that of
some contiguous cultivated possessions, amounts to 7410 souls.
[ 207-209 ]
The native authors do not agree in their accounts of the origin of the Indians of this district. Antonio de Remesal, in
his History of the Province of St. Vincent de Chiapa and Guatemala, (lib. 5, cap. 13,) positively asserts, that the
people of Chiapa originally came from the province of Nicaragua. The Quiche; manuscript, already spoken of, says, that
the Quelenes and Chapanecos are descendants of a brother of King Nimaquiche,
who accompanied him from the city of Tula. Nunez de la Vega, bishop of Chiapa, in the preface to his Diocesan
Constitutions, states, that he met with certain calendars in the language of these Indians, in which mention was made
of 20 lords, or heads of families, from whom it appears this people derived their origin. Their names were Ninus, or Mox,
Ygh, Votan, Ghanan, Abagh, Tox, Moxic, Lambat, Molo, or Mulu, Elab, Batz, Evob, Been, Hix, Tziquin, Chabin, Chic, Chinax,
Cahogh, and Aghual. Of all these magnates, Votan seems to have been the most celebrated personage,
as a separate work is devoted to his particular history. In this he is said to have seen the great wall (by which the
tower of Babel is meant) that was built by order of his grandfather Noe, from the earth to the sky; and that, at this
place, to every people a different language was given. It farther says, that Votan was the first person whom God sent
to this country, to divide the lands, and apportion them among the Indians; and adds, that Votan was at
Huehueta, a town of Soconusco, where he introduced Dantas, and concealed a treasure. This treasure was discovered in
a cave by Nunez de la Vega; it consisted of some earthen jars, on which were represented figures of the ancient
Gentile Indians. If credit be given to the manuscripts, it follows that we must consider these
regions to have been peopled shortly after the deluge; since Votan, who was at Babel when they were building the tower,
and the human race was dispersed and separated by different languages, was one of the founders of the Indian
population. By parity of reasoning we must also admit, that the languages
of these provinces are some of the primitive dialects, into which the Almighty divided the language of the post-diluvian
patriarchs. From the same cause we shall be led to believe, that the first inhabitants of America did not, according to
the most generally received opinion, arrive at it by way of the straits of Anian; for had that been the fact, many years,
and many generations, must have passed away before they could have extended thence into these regions under the torrid
zone, at a distance so immense from the straits.
John V. Yates and
Joseph W. Moulton
History of New-York
NYC: A. T. Goodrich, 1824
[ 19-21 ]
... On the south of Lake Ontario, are two alluvial formations, of which the most recent is north of the ridge road.
No forts have been discovered on it, although many have been observed south of the mountain ridge. The non-existence
of forts on the secondary or primary alluvial formations of Lake Ontario, is a strong circumstance, from which the
remote antiquity of those on the highlands to the south may be deduced; because, if they had been erected after the
first or last retreat of the lake, they would undoubtedly have been made on them as most convenient, and best adapted
for all military, civil, and domestic purposes.
Origin of the Aborigines and ancient Ruins.
Mr. Jefferson was of opinion that emigrants might have easily passed from the north-east of Asia, or north-west
of Europe into America; but he considered the red Americans more ancient than those of Asia, upon the assumption
that radical changes of language among the former have taken place in greater numbers, than they have among the
Siquenza (whose opinion was adopted by Bishop Huet) supposed that the Mexicans belonged to the posterity of
Naphtuhim, and that their ancestors left Egypt not long after the confusion of tongues, and travelled
towards America. This is a conjecture which Abbe Clavigero considers well supported, but not sufficiently sustained
to be pronounced a truth.
§ 15.] Romans -- Africans -- Votan. 73.
The ruins of an ancient city near Palenque, in the province of Chiapa, and kingdom of Guatemala,
in Spanish America, are described as exhibiting the remains of magnificent edifaces, temples, towers, aqueducts,
statues, hieroglyphics, and unknown characters. This city (since called the Palencian city) was first discovered by
Captain Antonio Del Rio, in 1787. He says in his report, * that the town appears to have been seven or eight
leagues in length, and at least half a league in
breadth; that from a Romish similarity in location, in that of a subterranean stone aquaduct, and from certain figures
in Stucco, he thought that an intercourse once existed between the original natives and Romans. The Palencian edifices
are of very remote antiquity, having been buried for many ages in the impenetrable thickets covering the mountains,
and unknown to the historians of the new world.
74. Origin of the Aborigines and ancient Ruins. [Part 1.
order to discover his relations, the Culebreas, * and make himself known to them, he made four voyages to Chivim;
that he arrived in Spain, and went to Rome; that he saw the great house of God building, &c.
§ 15.] Votan. 75.
In order to sustain his conclusion, the Doctor is forced to enter upon a train of bold conjecture. The speeches of Montezuma, (who has already been claimed as the descendant of Madoc by his advocates) to Cortes, on his submission to the domination of Charles V, and his address to the chiefs and caciques, are supposed to refer to the arrival and departure of Votan.
76. Origin of the Aborigines and ancient Ruins. [Part 1.
to have been a fishing vessel. Laertius relates nearly the same circumstance. Hornius says, that in very remote
ages, three voyages were made to America, the first by Atlantes, or descendants of Atlas, who gave his name to the
ocean, and the islands, Alantides: this name Plato appears to have learned from the Egyptian priests, the general
custodes of antiquity. The secod voyage, mentioned by Hornius, is given on the authority of Diodorus Siculus, lib. 5,
cap. 19, where he says, the Phoenicians, having passed the columns of Hercules, and impelled by the violence of the
winds, abandoned themselves to its fury; and after experiencing many tempests; were driven upon an island in the
Atlantic Ocean, distant many days sail to the westward of the coast of Lybia. This island, upon which were large
buildings, had a fertile soil, and navigable rivers. The report of this discovery soon spread among the Carthaginians
and Romans, the former being harrased by the wars of the latter, and the people of Mauritania, sent a colony to that
island with great secrecy, that, in the event of being overcome by their enemies, they might possess a place of
§ 16.] Votan. 77.
So formidable, however, have been the interposing difficulties, as viewed by the learned, in arriving at any certainty
when and whence came the first people of America, and how and when animals first appeared there, * that many
suppose, (for instance, Acosta, Grotius, Buffon, and Abbe Clavigero,) that this continent was once connected with the
old continents, and by some great convulsion, the communications have been destroyed. There cannot be any doubt that
our planet has
78. Origin of the Aborigines and ancient Ruins. [Part 1.
been subject to great vicissitudes since the deluge. Lands over which ships once sailed, are now the seats of
cultivation; lands which were formerly cultivated, are now covered by water. Earthquakes have
swallowed some lands, subterraneous fires have thrown up others. Rivers have formed new soil with their mud;
the sea has retreated from shores and lengthened the land; or advancing, diminished it, or separated territories
which were united, and formed new straits and gulfs. Pliny, Seneca, Diodorus, and Strabo, report a great many
instances of such vicissitudes. According to them, Spain and Africa were united, and by a violent irruption of the
ocean upon the land between the mountains Abyla and Calpe, that communication was broken, and the Mediterranean sea
formed. Sicily had been united to the continent with Naples, and Eubes, (the Black sea,) to Boeotia. The people of
Ceylon have a tradition that an irruption of the sea separated their island from the peninsula of India; so those of
Malabar, with respect to the isles of Malvidia; and by the Malayans with respect to Sumatra. (56) It is certain,
says the Count de Buffon, that in Ceylon the earth has lost by the sea thirty or forty leagues, while Tongres, a
place in the low countries, has gained thirty leagues of land from the sea. The northern part of Egypt owes its
existence to the innundation of the Nile. The earth which this river has brought from the inland countries of Africa,
and deposited in its innundations, has formed a soil more than twenty-five cubits of depth. * In like manner, adds
the above author, the province of the Yellow river in China, and that of Louisiana, have been formed from the mud of
rivers. The peninsula of Yucatan, in America, no doubt was once the bed of the sea. In the channel of the Bahama,
indications appear of a former existing union of Cuba with Florida. In the strait which separates America from Asia,
are many islands, which probably were the mountains belonging to that tract of land, which we suppose to have been
swallowed by earthquakes, a probability
§ 16.] Union of Continents. 79.
strengthened by the knowledge we have of the multitude of volcanos in the peninsula of Kamschatka. The sinking of
that land, and the separation of the two continents, however, is imagined to have been occasioned by those great
and extraordinary earthquakes mentioned in the history of the Americans, which formed an era almost as memorable as
that of the deluge. (57) Abbe Clavigero is pursuaded that there was an ancient union between the equinoctial
countries of America and those of Africa, and a united continuation of the northern countries of America with those
of Europe or Asia; the latter affording a passage for beasts of cold climes, the former for quadrupeds and reptiles
peculiar to hot climes. He also believes that there was formerly a great tract of land, which united the now most
eastern part of Brazil to the most western part of Africa, and that all that space of land may have been sunk by
some violent earthquakes, leaving only some traces of it in the isles of Cape de Verd, Fernando de Norona, Ascension,
St. Matthew, and others, and the many sand-banks discovered by different navigators, and particularly by De Bauche,
who sounded the sea with particular care and exactness. Those islands and sand-banks may probably have been the
highest parts of that sunken continent. It is also the belief of the Abbe Clavigero, that the most westerly part
of America was formerly united by means of a smaller continent to the most easterly part of Tartary, and perhaps
America was united also by Greenland with the northern countries of Europe. Dr. Foster entertained an opinion,
which however he afterwards questioned, that Friesland, (larger according to Hakluyt than Ireland) to which the
Venetian Zenos in the beginning of the fourteenth century proceeded, and thence advantured at sea for years in the
service of Sichmi, the enterprising chief of the island, was situated between Iceland and Greenland, and has since
been swallowed by the sea in a great earthquake. Dr. Belknap * coincided in this opinion...
"Ruines de Palenqué"
Recueil de voyages
et de mémoires II
trans. by. J. B. Warden
"Review of Books"
The Asiatic Journal
and Monthly Miscellany
Vol. XX No. 118
London: Oct. 1825
[ 425-429 ]
Essay on Dr. Young's and M. Champollion's Phonetic System of Hieroglyphics, with some additional Discoveries, &c.,
by which it may be aplied to decypher the names of the Ancient Kings of Egypt and Ethopia. By H. Salt, Esq., His
Britannic Majesty's Consul-General in Egypt. London, 1825. 8vo.
Vol. VI. New York City, September ??, 1826. No. ?
Premiums for Geographical Discoveries. -- There exists in Paris, a Geographical Society, which appears to have large funds, that are devoted to promote the science which gives its name to the Society. By a late arrival from Havre, we have received from M. L. Beront, a member of this Society, the programme of the premiums now offered for discoveries, together with a letter inviting us to aid, if we should see fit, the views of himself and colleagues, by making public in the United States such parts of the programme as relate to investigations on the continent. We cheerfully comply with the invitation, which will, perhaps be best understood by translating an extract from M. Beront's letter, and that portion of the proposals that concerns the Americans. Mr. Beront says, "among the investigations proposed are, two relative to America -- the first having for its object, to describe the interior of Guiana -- the other to give a more exact and detailed account than we yet possess, of the ruins of the ancient city of Palenque, situated in the Province of Guatemala.
London: Longman, &c., 1827
[ 267 ]
We will now endeavour to give the reader a sketch of Anahuac, the old name of New Spain, before the arrival of the Mexicans.
"The Toltecas," says Clavigero, vol. i. p. 84, are the oldest nation of which we have any knowledge, and that is very imperfect."
* Robertson, ii. 293. "When the Mexicans arrived in Anahuac, says Clavigero, they found it full of large and beautiful cities." Vol. i. 416. No proofs of this assertion appear in any ruins of dwellings built of solid materials. The ruins of Mitla, and those near Guatimala, are probably not older than the thirteenth or fourteenth century, according to Humboldt, (Vol. ii. 158). The ruins of Mitla are ornamented with Greek and Arabesque borders, very similar to such as are seen on Chinese and Japanese card boxes aud counters, and also on the dresses of the Incas.
[ 275 ]
Some of the wretched remains of the nation removed to Yucatan, some to Guatimala, * and some continued in the kingdom of Tula, and dispersed themselves in the vale where Mexico was afterwards founded. There cannot be a doubt, that the Toltecs had a clear notion of the deluge. -- Clav. Vol. ii. p. 87.
For about a century, Anahuac remained almost depopulated and desolate, until the arrival of a great number of the Chechemecas, A.D. 1170, (Humboldt, Vol.ii p, 251), who came originally from the northern countries. Their native land they called Amaquemecan, where, they say, different monarchs ruled their country many years. They were eighteen months on their journey, on which they passed
* The ancient inhabitants of Guatimala were a highly cultivated people, as is proved by the ruins of a great city, situate in a place, which the Spaniards call el Palenque. -- Humboldt, Vol. ii. p. 254.
The Mongols and Tartars consider themselves as descendants of Japhet. -- Abul Ghazi, P. i. Ch. ii.
"Remarks on the Ruins
Quarterly Journal of Lit.
London, Jan. & Apr. 1828
[ 135 ]
Remarks on the Ruins at Palenque, in Guatemala, and on the
These ruins are situated on a plain, named Palenque, in the province of Ciudad Real de Chiapa, near the borders
of Guatemala and Yucatan, in north latitude, by Robertson's map, 17 degrees 30 minutes.
136 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
nor subterranean passage, in which excavations were not effected two or three yards in depth.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 137
see that it had a similar chamber and corridor with those on the east. The south side has only four small chambers,
with nothing but two little windows, like those described above.
138 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
which has, at a regular distance, flats or landings, each having its respective doorway, ornamented in front like
Fig. 18. Fig. 19 represents another entrance, and there is a third buried beneath heaps of rubbish. In another of the
many entrances, there was a stone, (No. 7,) which I broke off from the left hand side of the first step, with various
devices in bas-relief, as in Fig. 20 . On reaching the second door, we continued the descent, with artificial light,
by a very gentle declivity. Turning at right angles, we entered through a door into a chamber sixty-four yards long,
and nearly as large as those before described; beyond this there is another, exactly similar, having light from
windows commanding a corridor fronting the south. Nothing was found in these places, except some plain stones, two
yards and a half long by one yard and a quarter broad, supported by four square stands of masonry, rising about half
a yard above the ground, partitioned off in the forms of alcoves, and were obviously receptacles for sleeping.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 139
at each end, and in the centre an oratory, three yards square, presenting, on each side of the entrance, a
perpendicular stone, whereon there is the image of a man in bas-relief, as in Figs. 24, 25. On entering, the entire
front is occupied by three stones, joined together, upon which there are the allegorical objects represented by
Fig. 26. The outward decoration is a moulding, finished with small stucco bricks, and the bas-reliefs, Nos. 11 and 12.
The pavement is smooth, and eight inches thick. In the centre, at the depth of about half a yard, was found a round
earthen vessel, about a foot in diameter, fitted, horizontally, with lime to another of the same size. A quarter of a
yard deeper, a circular stone was found, about a foot in diameter, and, on removing it, there was a cylindrical
cavity, a foot wide, and a third of a foot deep, containing a flint lance, two small conical pyramids, with the figure
of a heart in dark crystallized stone, named challa; and common in these parts. *
140 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
blades of razors, probably used as such by these uncivilized people. * They are numbered 23j 24. No. 25 is an earthen
pot, containing a number of small bones, grinders, and teeth, found in the same excavation.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 141
"Father Jacito Garrido, a Dominican friar, who was in these parts in 1638, where he taught theology, and was well
versed in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages; cosmography, arithmetic, and music; has left a Latin manuscript, in
which he states his opinion, that the northern parts of America had been discovered by the Greeks, English, and other
nations, a supposition he deduces from the variety of languages, and some monuments in the village of Ocojingo,
twenty-four leagues from Palenque; but these are the mere conjectures of the reverend writer, nor does he define the
period when these alleged strangers arrived." -- Page 12.
142 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
Huguetan, in the year 1691; that it is, however, possible, that Votan's tract, or another similar to it, may be that
which is in the possession of Don Ramon de Ordonez y Aguiar, of Ciudad Real, a man of extraordinary genius, and at
this time occupied in composing a work, the title of which is, Historia del Cielo y de la Terra, which traces
the original population of America from Chaldea, immediately after the confusion of tongues. His study of the subject
for more than thirty years, and his skill in the Tzendal language, in which the tract is written, lead us to
anticipate a work so perfect in its kind as will completely astonish the world."
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 143
the name of their native residence. They were acquainted with the art of casting gold and silver, and of
cutting all kinds of gems. They brought with them from their own country an exact knowledge of the length of the
solar year, where it had been known about a century before the Christian era. *
144 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
they were of the noble house of Citin. They represented themselves as sons of a great lord, and that they had been
attracted by the reports they had heard of the hospitality of the Chechemecan monarch. The king was pleased with their
manners, and gave his two daughters in marriage to the two eldest princes.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 145
146 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
Description of the Seventeen Plates which are published; but not bound in the same order in Two Volumes which
the Writer has seen; they are, therefore, now numbered and described so as to be easily referred to.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 147
The heads and ears are common with Mongols and Turks. The early Parthians cut off also the hand. The head and right
hand of Crassus were presented to Arsaces Orodes. -- (Hist. Parthian Emp. by Lewis, p. 111.) Thus all these
customs and allusions may be referred to Tartary in the year 544.
148 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
Remark. -- These three persons, and nearly all the others represented in the seventeen plates, have remarkably
high skulls and large aquiline prominent noses; * and some of them have projecting under lips. In a dissertation on
this subject, (Humboldt's Researches, vol. i. 130,)
it is said, that "this is also the essential character of the hieroglyphical pictures preserved at Vienna, Rome, and
the palace of the Viceroy at Mexico." The greatest resemblance to any known people is to the Turks. Among these
plates the features of the man upon the medal in No. ix., may be those of a Calmuc; and many of the heads upon
the border-writing of these pictures are rather flat than long. According to American history, the Toltecs left
their native Tula, in Asia, A.D. 544, and being driven by famine from Anahuac, A.D. 1052, they settled in Guatemala and
Yucatan. -- (Conquest by the Mongols, p. 269.)
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 149
China was invaded by these conquerors. They besieged the city of Bosphorus, at Lake Maeotis, subject to the Romans.
(Gibbon, ch. xlii.) About this period the northern parts of China were entirely ruined, the Emperor turned
bonza, and by his weakness threw the country into the most terrible anarchy. (See Du Halde, cycle, A.D. 484 to
544.) Tou-men, chief of the Tou-kiue nation, entirely defeated the Kao-tche Tartars, and carried off half a million
of families. Emboldened by this success, he sent an embassy to China in the year 532. It is quite impossible to trace
the persons or the geography of these warriors, but it is evident that there are abundant causes for flight and
emigration. (See D'Herbelot, iv. 92.)
150 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
are a good-humoured race, and some of the women are fair, affable, and so handsome, and have such regular features,
that they would find numerous admirers in all the cities of Europe." -- Pallas, 5 vols. 4to, tom. i. p. 496,
et seq. If, in consequence of the Spanish decree in 1585, these deformations were no longer practised, nature
would resume her true features, and we accordingly find that "the inhabitants of Guatemala are celebrated for personal
beauty and sweetness of disposition, the women being reputed the handsomest in Spanish America." -- Rees's Cyc.,
Guat. It was from the Oighours, in the part of Tartary in question, that the Emperor Kublai procured four or five
hundred beautiful concubines annually. -- Marco Polo, Note, 527. -- Wars and Sports, p. 62.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 151
Cabrera, (p. 54.) represents the expulsion of the Chichemacas from Amaquemacan, which is the city of Palenque, and
not in the north of Mexico, or in Asia, as others have described. The seven trees represent the seven tribes. * The
large tree is cieba, or wild cotton, with a snake twisted round it, which shows Votan to be a Hivite and the principal
posterity of Cadmus. Votan had brought the first settlers, seven families, from Hispaniolia. Having visited Tripoli,
he was surprised on his return to find that seven more tribes had arrived and blended themselves with the others who
were of the same origin: and that they were named Nahuatlacas or Tzequiles, the latter being the name by which the
Mexicans are known by the natives of Chiapa. (p. 95. )
152 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
who wear a head-dress in shape like a mitre. --- (Dr. Cabrera, page 38, describes an idol at Palenque, with a mitre,
or cap, with bulls' horns, and says that, without doubt, it is Osiris.) So minutely do the descriptions of
Dr. Cabrera agree with the figures in M. Chappe's volume, that he mentions a strap, or thong, with three ends, in the
right hand of Osiris, and Iamandaga has precisely such a strap in his right hand. * This idol has upon his feet
buskins, or caligae, similar to those on the soles of the feet of several persons in these plates.
Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque. 153
represented with devices, like those of the Mexican kings. These circumstances, with Votan's history on the Medal, point out, as clearly as evidence can prove, that Amaquemacan is the Province of Chiapa, and not in Asia or the North of America. -- Dr. Cabrera, p. 58.
Remark. -- There is nothing in this tower to show a different architecture from the Peruvians and Mexicans. A fire-temple in Persia is of superior architecture, but has, like the above, only a door, and no window; and it is also accompanied with bas-reliefs and tombs (Sir R. K. Porter's Travels. i. 562.) The houses in Thibet have no windows, and are entered by a ladder, just like Casa Grande, built by the Toltecs, N. lat. 29 degrees by California.
XIII. -- A man highly and fantastically decorated; he has the long-head, armour upon his shoulders, jewels and ear-covers. His helmet is surmounted with a bird's head, with a fish in the beak; three more fish decorate the head-dress, as if for trophies; and there is in the border-writing an ugly, rather flat, head, with a fish upon it, to denote its nation or tribe. * There is a small idol, as a kneeling human figure, with a fabulous beast's head, and another such head at the girdle of the man; these heads are possibly meant for those of the wolf.
Remark. -- The Persians name the natives of the ancient Gedrosia,
* See the plate, E,
154 Mr. Ranking on the Ruins of Palenque.
XIV. -- Ground-plan of a building, very simple.
XV. -- A man in a helmet, seated; upon the seat there is represented a hand cut off. Another man in a helmet, a girdle in his left hand, marked with arrow-heads, and holding an instrument in his other hand, in an attitude as if to cut off the left hand of the man upon the seat. These have the long-shaped head.
XVI. -- A circle, in which is a couch, or seat, formed of a quadruped, like a cat, with a head at each end, and at one end a human face, or head; a man sits, upon the seat with his legs under him, and his right hand upon his breast; a human hand and some flowers are upon his head. A figure, apparently a female, kneeling, presents to bim a flower-pot, with a plant in it; both of these have long-heads. There is some border-writing, among which are four human heads. Underneath, upon a stone, there is more border-writing, two small human figures, and one head.
XVII. -- An ornamental front, or entrance to a building, decorated with two birds and two snakes. The design, on the whole, is not devoid of taste.
[To be continued.]
[ 323 ]
(Continued from our last vol. and concluded.)
Guatemala and Yucatan have been proved, by the remarks on the ruins at Palenque, to bear strong evidence of their
having been peopled by Asiatics; Turks, Moguls, and Calmucs. Identifications of a more general nature will now be
given, which will probably not leave any doubt on the subject. They are derived from a Spaniard who is a native of the
city of New Guatemala. * When the Toltecs arrived in Guatemala, their king Nima Quiche died during their journey from
Tula, and his three brothers divided the country between them. From this family, all the progeny of kings derive
their origin, (pp. 165, 404). They found the country possessed by different nations, (p. 161). The third
Toltecan emperor, Hunahpu,
324 Mr. Ranking on Ancient Guatemala.
is celebrated for discovering the use of cocoa and cotton (p. 164).
Mr. Ranking on Ancient Guatemala. 325
throne, covered with four canopies of plumage, and the ascent was by several steps. It contained the treasury, court
of justice, the armory, gardens, aviaries, and menageries. The fourth and fifth divisions were for the queens, and
royal concubines, who were maintained most magnificently. The sixth division was for the king's daughters, and others
of the blood royal (pp. 85-88). There were many other considerable cities in this, said to be the most populous
portion of America at the Spanish conquest.
326 Mr. Ranking on Ancient Guatemala.
conjectured, that part of the Japan expedition was from Assam, which at that period belonged to the Moguls.)
Mr. Ranking on the Origin of the American Indians. 327
suddenly, which omen portended certain ruin. * The Indians, who came with the Spaniards from Mexico and Tlascala, were persuaded of the identity of their origin with the Guatemalans, Juarros, p. 165. It was in Veragua, the south province of Guatemala, that Columbus saw the first solid architecture of stone and lime, and copper hatchets at Honduras. He found a warlike people, and a chief, at whose dwelling 300 skulls of enemies were exhibited. Columbus felt persuaded that this was the coast of Asia. (See Life of Columbus, by Washington Irving, vol. iii. pp. 200, 225, 259.) Thus the architecture and civilization of Guatemala cannot be referred to an earlier period than A.D. 1052, and much of it is no doubt considerably later, from its corresponding with the gigantic style of the Peruvians and Mexicans.... [remainder not copied]
Barbara Anne Simon
The Hope of Israel...
London: R. B. Seeley, 1829
PRESUMTIVE EVIDENCE (pp. 250-59)
Clavigero, speaking of Quetzalcoatl, says the Mexicans believed this deity had been the chief priest at Tula, the capital of Tulteca, and that he was of a white complexion, tall, and broad, with a high forehead, large eyes, long black hair, and a thick beard; a man of austere and exemplary life, clothed with long garments from a sense of modesty, of a most gentle and prudent disposition, which showed itself in the laws he enacted for the good of the people; added to which, he was very expert in the arts of metling metals and of polishing precious stones, which he taught the Tultecas. Tescatlipoca, or God, being desirous of withdrawing Quetzalcoatl from Tula, appeared to him under the form of a man, stating it was the will of the gods that he should go to the kingdom of Hapalla to obtain immortality...
'All writers,' observes Dr. Cabrera, 'have been surprized at the ingenious method pursued by the Indians, from a very remote period, without adopting the practice of any of the polished countries of the old Continent, as for example, the visisions of the months into twenty days. Failing in their efforts to trace an imitation, they have been obliged to confess that this singular system, so far from being inferior to, does actually excel that of the most polished nations in the world.' The author, under the idea that they are Carthaginians, goes on to say what, under that of their being of Israelitish extraction, is wonderfully just. 'The reason, according to my humble judgment, which induced the Mexicans to deviate from the Egyptian practice and form a distinct system for themselves, could be no other than this, viz as they had constituted themselves a separate people, and independent of the nations of the old Continent, they determined to lay aside the Egyptian style which was in common use with the Carthagenians and other nations of the old hemisphere, and by reserving the original basis, from which, indeed, it was no easy matter to depart, in order to form a new system, analogous both to their origin, and to the wandering life of their forefathers, during the hundred and four years or domiciles, before they came to occupy the American soil.' 'With regard to relics,' the learned author observes, 'without going back or reverting to losses that are now beyond the power of remedy, I will confine myself to some recent important discoveries which may be preserved, should they attract attention, from the superior authorities.' He then mentions that a small jar of fine clay had been found about twelve feet below the surface of the ground, containing two hundred different brass medals. 'Don Ramon Ordonez, and Don Gabriel Chacon y Goday, related to me, a native Indian, had discovered in a cavern many sacred vessels and utensils of silver, and repeatedly intreated him to go and take possession of them: but perceiving the Vicar had not sufficient confidence in him, to credit his report, he brought as a proof of his veracity a silver chalice: it was very broad at the foot, and the cup shaped like an inverted pyramid, and on being compared with others of a similar make preserved in the church, 'it is' he adds, presumable it may be attributable to the times of the Apostles.' The chalice in question was destined by the Curate for an oratory on an estate of his own called Rossario. The Licentiate Don Francisco Ortiz also informed me, that there is in the possession of the present Curate of Saint Catherine of Yatahnacam, a little historical book of an Hebrew Indian nation, 'which,' continues the author, 'may probably be that of Been, mentioned by Nunez de la Vega. In the inner court of the house on the Inciesto estate, there is also a stone tablet, supported upon feet, having hieroglyphics on the four corners of the superfices and on three of its edges. This must have been table used in sacrifices.'...
1702 The Bishop of Chiapa, Don Francisco Nunez de la Vega, has his "Diocesan Constitutions," printed at Rome. The book contains the first account of the ancient figure Votan.
1726-39 Benito Jerónimo Feijóo y Montenegro publishes his Teatro Critico Universal at Madrid. The fifth volume of his serialized work contained his ideas on the original population of the Americas, Votan, etc.
1736-44 Lorenzo Boturini Benaducci, a native of Milan, travels in Mexico with the permission of the Spanish government, collecting preColumbian antiquities. He evidently visited near the site of the Palenque ruins. Upon his return to Spain, Boturini wrote a history of ancient Mexico, still unpublished when he died in 1753
1773 Fray Ramon Ordoñez y Aguilar, Canon of the Cathedral in Cuidad Real de Chiapas (San Cristobal de las Casas), hears rumors of ancient "stone houses" lost in the jungles of Chiapas Province. He moves to the small pueblo of Santo Domingo del Palenque and investigates the nearby ruins
1784 - Dec. Intrigued by accounts from Fray Ramon and other reporters, Jose de Estacheria, the Spanish Governor of Guatemala, orders the Mayor of Santo Domingo de Palenque, Jose Antonio Calderon, to visit the ruins and compile a report of them suitable for submission to the Spanish King. Part of the Governor's motivation in ordering this investigation is to help settle the question of where the original inhabitants of the Americas came from.
1785 - Jan. ? Calderon visits the ruins and drafts a preliminary survey, which he submits to Governor de Estacheria early in 1785.
1785 - spring ? Governor Jose de Estacheria receives the first report on the ruins and decides to supplement its contents with further investigations at the site, conducted by Antonio Bernaconi, the Guatemalan governmental architect. Bernasconi discovers the city was not destroyed by war or natural causes, but was simply abandoned by its residents. Governor Estacheria forwards the first and second reports to the King of Spain.
1785-86 The King receives the Guatemalan reports, consults with Jean-Baptiste Muñoz, Historian for Spanish America, and orders Governor Estacheria to continue the survey of the Palenque site by conducting excavations there. The Governor in Guatemala receives a royal order, dated May 15th, 1786, requiring "another examination of the ruins discovered in the vicinity of Palenque," but the architect Bernasconi died before a third expedition could be assembled.
1787 - Mar. Governor de Estacheria sends Captain Jose Antonio del Rio (1745-1789) to renew exploration of the ruins. Del Rio, a Spanish army officer who came to Gautemala in 1775, obeys the royal order and puts together an exploratory expedition from Santo Domingo de Palenque to the nearby ruins.
1787 - May Del Rio, accompanied by artist Ricardo Almendariz, visits and partly excavates the ruins. Del Rio writes a report of his discoveries there, illustrated by Almendariz, in which he gives the first detailed description of the Palenque ruins. To help authenticate his report del Rio removed a stucco head from a building carving at the ruins; this he sent to the Governor (who forwarded it to Spain) as an example of ancient Mayan bas-relief work.
1787 - June Del Rio submits his final report to Governor de Estacheria, accompanied by numerous sketches of the ruins prepared by Almendariz. Del Rio gives no exact opinion on who constructed the Palenque ruins, but says: "the ancient inhabitants of these structures... in their fabulous superstitions, we seem to view the idolatry of the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans... it may reasonably be conjectured, that some one of these nations pursued their conquests even to this country... remained long enough to enable the Indian tribes to imitate their ideas..." This illustrated report was sent to Spain, but a copy of the manuscript (partly however in the handwriting of Muñoz ?) was retained by the authorities in the Guatemalan capital. No known mention of del Rio's work at the Palenque ruins was published in Spain, but a few years later at least a portion of his report, along with a number of its illustrations received public notice elsewhere.
1789 Captain del Rio dies in Guatemala.
1794 Dr. Pablo Felix Cabrera, a Spanish intellectual living in Guatemala comes upon a "brass medal," inscribed on either side with what he believes are ancient American engravings. On June 2, 1794 Cabrera submits to the King of Spain his interpretation of the figures engraved on this strange medallion. In Cabrera's opinion, the figures "fully authenticate" what the folk-hero "Votan relates in his history" and prove "the American tradition as to his origin and his expulsion from the kingdom of Amaguemecan..." It appears likely that, in his efforts to document the historical of this particular "brass medal," Dr. Cabrera somehow gained access to del Rio's illustrated 1787 report.
1796 Dr. Pablo Felix Cabrera writes his "Critical Investigation and Research into the History of the Americans," in which he further develops his theory that the Phoenicians first settled the Caribbean and Meso-America, and that Hispaniola was Plato's Atlantis (referred to in some legends as "Septimania"). Cabrera makes only marginal use of del Rio's report in this regard, but he offers the example of the ancient ruins near Palenque in support of his theory of the Phoenician origin of American civilization. According to Cabrera's opinion, the ancient hero Votan was a trans-Atlantic voyager from the shores of Canaan, but his jumping off point for voyages to the Americas was the Phoenician port of Gades at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula. Gades (later the Spanish city of Cadiz) was founded by the Phoenicians about 1100 BCE; was taken over by the Phoenician Carthaginians about 500 BCE and finally became a Roman ally in 206 BCE. By placing Votan's voyages to the Americas before that date, Cabrera gives the impression that the New World was visited and occupied by proto-Spaniards, many centuries before Cortez landed in Mexico. Apparently Cabrera died without ever seeing his work published, either in Guatemala or in Spain.
1807-08 Captain Guillermo Dupaix, accompanied by artist Jose Luciano Castañeda, is despatched by the King of Spain to conduct explorations in Central America. Dupaix visits Palenque, where Castañeda makes 145 drawings of the ruins. The full report of this expedition never makes it to the Spanish archives, but a portion of its contents is donated by Castañeda to the Cabinet of Natural History at Mexico City. In 1828, the French scholar Henri Baradere obtains a copy from the Mexican government and the Dupaix account, along with some of Castañeda's drawings, finally sees publication in Paris during the early 1830s in volumes 4, 5, & 6 of Lord Kingsborough's Antiquites Mexicaines.
1808 Domingo Juarros publishes the first volume of his Historia de la Ciudad de Guatemala in Central America, including in it the first printed portrayal of the Palenque ruins. Juarros evidently had access to extracts from the reports of del Rio and Dupaix -- he accurately describes the "temples, altars, deities, sculptures, and monumental stones" of the ruined city and says that "they bear testimony to its great antiquity." Although Juarros was ready to match the magnificence of the ruins to any other civilization's architecture, he was more inclined to view the site as "an Egyptian colony" than the work of native Indians. This history was translated into English by John Baily and published in London as the "Statistical and Commercial History of the Kingdom of Guatemala," in 1823. (See pp. 18-19 of the English edition for mentions of Captain del Rio, etc.).
1808-11 Alexander von Humboldt publishes Part 3 of his Voyage aux Régions Equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent... under the title of "Essai Politique sur la Royaume de la Nouvelle-Espagne." English ed. 1811
1810 Alexander von Humboldt publishes the first illustration of an ancient Mayan relief (obtained for him by Mexican scholar Cervantes) from the Palenque ruins, as "Plate 11" in Part 1 of his Voyage aux Régions Equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent... under the title of "Vues des Cordilleres et Monuments des Peuples Indigenes de l'Amerique." Humboldt, who never personally visited the region around Palenque, mistakenly identifies this illustration as coming from Oaxaca. In the same book, on pages 47-52, von Humboldt reproduces part of the "Dresden" Codex, but fails to identify its character writing as Mayan glyphs. The first English translation of this book was issued in London in 1814, as "Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent..."
1808-11 Alexander von Humboldt publishes Part 3 of his English Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent... under the title, "Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain."
1814 Alexander von Humboldt publishes Part 1 of his English Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent... under the title, "Researches Concerning the Institutions & Monuments of the Ancient Inhabitants of America..." in London. This included his Palenque graphic, as Plate 11.
1816 - Oct. Solomon Spalding dies in Pennsylvania. A student of the classics and American antiquities, he would have been very interested in the unpublished archaeological discoveries being made in Mexico and Central America. He never sees the del Rio report, the Almendariz drawings, nor the 1796 work by Cabrera. Spalding may, however, have read some of the sourves cited by Cabrera, along with Alexander von Humboldt's pre-1816 writings in English translation. It seems a given fact that Spalding encountered the theory of a Phoenician discovery of the Americas from his professor, Dr. John Smith of Dartmouth College. Smith would have been aware of the Votan legend which so excited Mr. Cabrera.
1819 Dr. Francois Corroy, a French resident of the Province of Tanbsco, begins studying Mayan artifacts in Central America. He becomes interested in the Palenque ruins and occasionally visits there, taking notes for a book he hopes to have published someday. According to Corroy, it was about this same time (1820-21) that Jean Frederic Maxmilien, the self-appointed "Comte de Waldeck" (1766-1875), began to occupy "a small house erected upon the [Palenque] ruins." Actually Waldeck's first visit to the region was only a temporary one; he would not return to actually live at the Palenque ruins until about 1826. Although Corroy and Waldeck occasionally cooperate in their studies of Mayan antiquities they maintain independent (and somewhat rival) programs of exploration and reporting
1821 After years of struggle the Criollo of Central America receive political independence from Spain. They form the "United Province of Central America," spanning the region between Guatemala and Costa Rica. The confederation only lasts 16 years. During the political upheaval, some materials from the Guatemalan archives and some writings of the old Spanish scholars come into public view. Among these papers is Dr. Pablo Felix Cabrera's "Critical Investigation and Research into the History of the Americans."
1822 - July On July 22 a newspaper in western New York reports the discovery of the Palenque ruins and their having "been accurately surveyed by a learned Spaniard," in 1787. The same news item was printed in many other newspapers at that time.
1822 - summer Doctor MacQuy, an Englishman visiting Guatemala City, comes across Dr. Pablo Felix Cabrera's "Critical Investigation and Research into the History of the Americans," as well as the 1787 report of Captain del Rio and several of the 1787 Almendariz illustrations. It is unclear whether the visitor obtained these works in the form of Spanish or English manuscript pages, however the text was made available in English after he obtained these materials and brought them to London. Jean Frederic Maxmilien, "Comte de Waldeck," evidently had some role in MacQuy's selling these pages to H. Berthoud, who, in turn, employed Waldeck to transform the old survey illustrations into lithographs. He produced 17 engravings, rendering the old Almendariz images as practically unshaded "coloring book" style graphic plates, marked "J-F. W." The "Preface" of the booklet states: "Reference will be found to drawings mentioned by captain Del Rio, which did not fall into... [our] hands... other designs are described which do not appear to coincide precisely with any of the accompanying plates." It appears likely that only a small number of the Almendariz drawings had survived and that Waldeck constructed some of his engravings from copies a certain Mr. Latour-Allard had obtained of Castañeda's artwork.
1822 - Dec. The London Eclectic Review publishes its review: "Description of the Ruins..." Similar, shorter notices appear in various British periodicals, providing the English public knowledge of the Palenque ruins
1824 Chiapas is detached from the United Province of Central America and becomes a Mexican state. Henceforth access to and preservation of the ruins near Palenque will depend largely upon Mexican politics. However, the view that the "antiquities" of southern Mexico were the product of an indigenous civilization, and not that of colonists from Cadiz, becomes increasingly popular. In time the people of Mexico will come to look upon the Mayan architecture and art as a national treasure.
1824 John V. Yates and Joseph W. Moulton publish Vol I of their History of the State of New York and make prominent mention of the 1822 del Rio booklet on pp. 73-77. Copies of the Yates & Moulton history were readily available in western New York prior to 1830.
1824 William Bullock publishes his Six Months Residence and Travels in Mexico in London, mentioning the Del Rio report on page 331. In 1824 Bullock held a grand exhibition of Mexican antiquities at the Egyptian Hall in London's Picadilly; there he displayed 52 different items (many of them precious pieces of pre-Columbian art and writing). The event was reported in the newspapers and public awareness of and interest in Central American antiquities was greatly increased in western Europe.
1825 On pp. 165-70 of Vol. 7 of the Museum of Foreign Literature and Science, appears an article on the antiquities of Mexico and Egypt. Del Rio's account is mentioned.
1825 The Geographical Society of Paris offers prizes of four thousand francs each for the best accounts of various subjects pertaining to American antiquities. A gold medal is offered for the best description of these ruins, received before the beginning of 1836. Investigation of the ruins at Palenque obviously ranks at the top of the Society's archaeological wish-list.
1825-27 Mr. Waldeck, having a desire to see Central American artwork with his own eyes, accepts a job as a mining engineer in Michoacan, but soon moves from there to Mexico City, where he draws objects in the National Museum for publication by the government. In about 1827 Waldeck decides to move to Chiapas and spend the next several years documenting the art and architecture of the Palenque ruins. However, he does not permanently relocate there until 1832.
1826 Dr. Francois Corroy publishes a comprehensive account of his labors and discoveries at Palenque. Since the report is printed in Spanish and appears in an obscure journal in Vera Cruz, the outside scientific world takes little notice of Corroy's findings.
1827 Constantine S. Rafinesque (1783-1840) acquires copies of Mayan glyphs from the Dresden Codex and from the plates accompanying the 1822 publication of Del Rio's report. He begins the first, rudimentary attempt at "deciphering" the writing system used in ancient Palenque. He announces his work in the Jan. 13, 1827 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
1827-32 Dr. Francois Corroy sends numerous reports and archaeological samples to the Geographical Society of Paris, documenting his work at the Palenque site. He begins to be a prime candidate for the receipt of the Society's advertised gold medal prize.
1828 Mark Beaufoy publishes his 310 page Mexican Illustrations in London, mentioning the del Rio report on pp. 218-23.
1828 Constantine S. Rafinesque issues some reports of his effort to translate Mayan glyphs. He sees notices of his work published in a few journals and newspapers, but without any accompanying illustrations.
1828 John Ranking publishes his Remarks on the Ruins at Palenque, in Guatemala, and on the Origin of the American Indians in London, examining Captain del Rio excavations and other early explorations of the site.
1828 - Feb. Martin Harris, a neighbor of Joseph Smith, obtains a reproduction of the "Nephite characters" Smith claims comprise the original text to the Book of Mormon. Harris carries the copy of these characters to Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell at Columbia College, New York City, hoping to obtain Mitchell's certification of them as a specimen of ancient writing. Harris fails to obtain any such affidavit from Mitchell or any other New York academic. Harris also visits Prof. Anthon, who later reported that Harris' copy of Book of Mormon characters included "a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt."
1829 Barbara Anne Simon publishes in London her Hope of Israel; Presumptive Evidence that the Aborigines of the Western Hemisphere are Descended from the Ten Missing Tribes of Israel, which mentions the "lost city" of Captain del Rio's report, along with some quotations from Paul Felix Cabrera's essay.
1829 Constantine S. Rafinesque finally identifies the Dresden Codex as a Mayan book. Von Humboldt published graphics from the ancient work as early as 1810, but Rafinesque's article is the first in which some of the codex glyphs are successfully matched up with examples of Mayan writing (as published in 1822 along with Captain del Rio's Palenque exploration report). Working only with these sketchy published sources, Rafinesque is able to conclude that Mayan glyphs are a form of character writing; that the dot and bar glyphs constitute the Mayan numerical system, and that the language of the ancient writing must be similar to the modern spoken Mayan tongue. Rafinesque's other conclusion -- that the glyphs are of west African origin -- proves to be far too controversial and his attempts at offering translations are not taken seriously by professional linguists and historians.
1829 - June Joseph Smith registers his copyright to the Book of Mormon at Utica, New York. Although Smith may have heard some vague reports concerning Mayan ruins and artifacts, it is improbable that he ever saw the 1822 publication of del Rio's report and Cabrera's comments.
1830-48 Various volumes of Lord Kingsborough's Antiquites Mexicaines are published, including in their pages French translations of the reports of Del Rio and Dupaix.
1831 - spring Colonel Juan Galindo, the English-born Governor of Peten, Guatemala, and a member of the British Geographic Society, visits Palenque and sketches the ruins. He sends information on the ruins to Europe where nearly 30 different notices of his work are reported in English and French scientific journals between 1831 and 1836. Galindo concludes that the builders and former residents of the Palenque ruins were native Americans and the ancestors of the Maya. At about this time the Geographical Society of Paris renews its offer of a prize for the best account of the Palenque ruins. Galindo, through the medium of his various reports, appears to have won the competition in 1836, but he is killed in the fighting accompanying the break-up of the United Province of Central America before he can claim the Society's medal and monetary reward.
1831 - Sept. Death of Samuel L. Mitchell (1764-1831), renowned professor of Columbia College (now Columbia University). Prior to his death, Dr. Mitchell cultivated an interest in the antiquities of Mexico and Central America. This inspired Francois Corroy to open a correspondence with Mitchell in 1830 and to ship to New York various items from the Palenque ruins for Mitchell's inspection.
1831 - fall Samuel Ackerly inherits Mitchell's papers and decides to carry on the correspondence with Corroy in Mexico. He subsequently receives a great deal of information on the Palenque ruins, including plaster copies of certain examples of ancient artwork from the site.
1832-33 In April of 1831, Waldeck receives the commendation of the Mexican Vice President in his proposal to document the Palenque ruins. After waiting a year for the funding, he arrives at Palenque in May 1832 and begins his work. He takes up residence atop the "Temple of the Cross" at the site and devotes the next two years to various excavations and to completing his studies at the ruins.
1832 - March The American Quarterly Review publishes a piece of "Central America" in which the writer accepts Captain del Rio's speculations and Paul Felix Cabrera's essay as a plausible relation of Indian origins.
1832 - spring Constantine S. Rafinesque begins publication of a new scientific periodical, the Atlantic Journal, in Philadelphia. In this organ Rafinesque publishes a number of his papers on biology and various other topics. However, it seems that his major reason for initiating this new magazine is to secure publication of his controversial opinions regarding the African origin of Meso-American cultures and his alleged decipherment of Mayan hieroglyphics. The journal does not receive the support of the scientific community and lasts only for 8 issues. Of particular interest among its heterogeneous contents are Rafinesque's first and second letters "to Mr. Champollion" regarding Rafinesque's views on "the Graphic systems of America and the glyphs of Otolum" -- the latter word being Rafinesque's designation for the Palenque archaeological site -- published in the Spring and Summer 1832 issues of the Journal. These are conveniently reprinted in Josiah Priest's American Antiquities.
1833 - May On May 5th, 1833 Dr. Francois Corroy, writes to Samuel Akerly in New York City, saying: "As to Mr. Waldeck's being in Mexico, as announced in one of your newspapers, as you inform me, it is not so. He occupies a small house erected upon the [Palenque] ruins, where he has resided fourteen years, making drawings and excavations as far as his limited means will allow..."
1833 June On June 1, 1833 Dr. Francois Corroy, writes to Samuel Akerly in New York City, saying: "The last letter I received from Mr. Waldeck was written at the ruins, and dated 24th of May, 1833. He states that he has been informed, that in the United States there has been published in his name a work and drawings on the ruins, and he has requested me to contradict the authenticity of such a work..."
1833 Sept. Dr. Samuel Ackerly reads a paper on the Palenque ruins before the New-York Lyceum of Natural History. In his presentation Ackerly tells of the late Samuel L. Mitchell's correspondence with Francois Corroy in Tabasco, Mexico and of Corroy's explorations in the ruins. Ackerly also provides information from Constantine S. Rafinesque and other sources on the topic. The presentation is noticed by the editor of The Knickerbocker, a New York periodical, who evidently took his text from a fall issue of the New York Post. The editor publishes Ackerly's paper (which, in turn, is copied into the New York Family Magazine and this second periodical subsequently re-publishes Ackerly's paper and reprints much of the 1822 del Rio-Cabrera booklet on Palenque.
1833 fall? Waldeck returns to Europe and continues work on his heavily illustrated "Voyage archaeologique et pittoresque dans la Yucatan." He finally gets this book published in 1838.
1833-34 Josiah Priest publishes the first and second editions of his American Antiquities. In his popular book Mr. Priest quotes at length from Constantine S. Rafinesque, Elias Boudinot, Ethan Smith, etc., on the subject of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Priest several times mentions Captain del Rio's report, Cabrera's comments, the Palenque ruins, the Family Magazine articles, etc. In the 1834 edition Priest quotes from Rafinesque in regard to Mormonism, whom both men seem to have viewed as a religious delusion.
1833-34 On Dec. 7, 1833 the Family Magazine begins a 17-part serialization of the 1822 English translation of Captain del Rio's report and Pablo Felix Cabrera's comments. Del Rio's report comprises the first 5 articles (Dec. 7, Dec. 14. Dec. 21, Dec. 28, and Jan. 4), printed under the title "Ruins of an Ancient American City." Installments 6-9 (Jan. 11, Jan. 18, Jan. 25, and Feb. 1), under the same title, contain reports from Samuel Ackerly, an associate of the late Samuel L. Mitchell. The final 8 installments in the series (Feb. 8, Feb. 15, Feb. 22, Mar. 1, Mar. 8, Mar. 15, Mar. 22, and Mar. 29), under the title "Origin of the American Indians," are taken up with Cabrera's 1796 work.
1834 - Aug. Dr. Francois Corroy writes to Constantine S. Rafinesque, expressing annoyance over Waldeck's reputation as the Champollion of Mexico. Corroy points out that Del Rio, Cabrera, Bemarions, Castañeda, and others had investigated the Palenque ruins long before Waldeck began documenting the art and writing of the Palenque ruins.
1839 The revised edition of LDS Apostle Parley P. Pratt's "Voice of Warning," includes lengthy quotes from Priest's American Antiquities, as well as references to Rafinesque's "Otolum," and the writings of Del Rio, Cabrera, etc. Pratt presents all of this as proof for the supposed historicity of the Book of Mormon.
1840 John L. Stephens and Frederick Catherwood undertake the most famous expedition to the Palenque ruins, culminating in the publication of Stephens' 1841 masterpiece Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. The popularization of Stephens and Catherwoods' journey to Palenque does more to acquaint the reading public about the artifacts of the Mayan civilization than all the reports and books previously published on the subject.
1841 Sept. Vol.2, No.22 of the Mormon newspaper, Times and Seasons, quotes from Priest's American Antiquities to provides this important news in support of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon: "The celebrated antiquarian Prof. Rafinesque says, in speaking of the writing found on the ruins of the stone city found in Mexico, 'The glyphs of Otolum are written from top to bottom like the Chinese, or from side to side, indifferently like the Egyptian and the Demotic Libian... in oblong squares, or tablets like those of Egypt'... on page 122 of the same work, is a facsimile of American hieroglyphics found in Mexico. -- They were arranged in columns..." A previous issue of the same paper, published in January, quoted Rafinesque at length on the subject of tomatos.
1841 Mormon Elder Charles B. Thompson publishes his Evidences in Proof of the Book of Mormon, which mentions "Otolum," "del Rio," etc. on page 50 When Thompson writes his volume, John L. Stephens' monumental book is just being published: Thompson is content to simply reprint newspaper article quotations of Stephens' and Catherwood's lectures on the subject (see accounts beginning on page 241 and on page 248). Elder Thompson is obviously eager to equate the Book of Mormon civilizations with the pre-Columbian builders reported by Stephens and Catherwood, but he must wait another year before the Mormon leadership agrees to endorse this particular conceit.
1842 - Sept. Vol.3, No.22 of the Mormon newspaper, Times and Seasons, quotes at length from John L. Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan, and provides the editorial pronouncement that some of the ancient cities described in the Book of Mormon lay in Central America. The editor says: "The foregoing extract has been made to assist the Latter-Day Saints, in establishing the Book of Mormon as a revelation from God. It affords great joy to have the world assist us to so much proof, that even the most credulous cannot doubt.... these wonderful ruins of Palenque are among the mighty works of the Nephites: -- and the mystery is solved." According to the final words of that issue: "The Times and Seasons, Is edited, printed and published... [in] Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, by JOSEPH SMITH. The LDS readers of 1841 would have naturally read the editorial remarks of that issue as something akin to divine revelation conveyed by the top leader of the Church.
1842 - Oct. Vol.3, No.23 of the Mormon newspaper, Times and Seasons, again quotes at length from John L. Stephens' new book (Vol. II pp. 258ff), telling about the explorers' visit to the Planque ruins. In the quoted passages both del Rio and Dupaix are mentioned. This time the Mormon editorial remarks are only slightly less definite: "We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon."
1850 LDS Apostle Orson Pratt offers the following information, beginning on page 88, of his pamphlet Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon: "Professor Anthon, no doubt thought that this statement would militate against the Book of Mormon; but we consider it a great acquisition of evidence, confirmatory of the truth of that book, when compared with the discoveries of the glyph and characters among the ancient ruins of America. The celebrated antiquarian, Professor Rafinesque, in speaking of the glyphs discovered on the ruins of a stone city found in Mexico says: 'The glyphs of Otolum are written from top to bottom, like the Chinese... yet we find some formed, as it were, in oblong squares or tablets, like those of Egypt.' Two years after the Book of Mormon appeared in print, Professor Rafinesque, in his Atlantic Journal for 1832, gave the public a facsimile of American glyphs found in Mexico.... [Elder Martin Harris] according to Professor Anthon's testimony, got some three or four years the start of Professor Rafinesque, and presented him with the genuine elementary glyphs years before the Atlantic Journal made them public... But as Joseph Smith was an unlearned young man living in the country, where he had not access to the writings and discoveries of antiquarians, he would be entirely incapable of forging the true and genuine glyphs of Ancient America; therefore we consider this testimony of Professor Anthon, coming as it does from an avowed enemy of the Book of Mormon to be a great collateral evidence in its favor..."
1856 Benjamin G. Ferris publishes his Utah and the Mormons, and on page 54 provides some faulty reporting: "During Smith's searching operations for the discovery of hidden treasures, it is more than probable that he exhumed one or more of those curious glyphs which now figure so largely in the list of American antiquities... Professor Rafinesque, in his Asiatic [sic] Journal for 1832, describes similar plates found by him [sic] in Mexico..."
1857 John W. Hyde publishes his Mormonism: Its Leaders and on pp. 265-66 says: "Here, then, is the origin of the Urim and Thummim idea; what suggested that of the golden plates? It is a fact that Smith did copy some characters on to a slip of paper, which he sent by Martin Harris to Professor Anthon. It is also a fact, that the description of the characters made by the Professor, does somewhat resemble the description of the glyphs of Otolum, made subsequently by Professor Rafinesque (Atlantic Journal, 1832, Professor Rafinesque). Of this similarity O. Pratt makes great capital as a proof of the Book of Mormon. I admit the resemblance..."
1867 Pomeroy Tucker publishes his Origin... of Mormonism, and on pp. 75-76 paraphrases Ferris, saying: "Another theory in regard to the plates and hieroglyphics claimed to be found by Smith may possibly be explained in this way. In the list of American antiquities found in the Western country, and preserved in the museums of antiquarians, are what are called glyphs, consisting of curious metallic plates covered with hieroglyphical characters. Professor Rafinesque, in his Asiatic [sic] Journal for 1832, describes similar plates found by him in Mexico..."
1875 The LDS periodical Juvenile Instructor runs a multi-part article on "Old America" and "Ancient Ruins." The installment for Feb. 6th discusses possible pre-Columbian explorations in the Americas by the Phoenicians, and adds: "Professor Raffinesque, in his Atlantic Journal for 1832, has presented the public with engravings and their meaning, both Phoenician and American, which bear a striking similarity..." No claim is made for the "glyphs of Otolum" being examples of reformed Egyptian, however. The installment for April 17th tells of the legends concerning the Mayan folk hero Votan and then refers the reader to the Book of Ether, etc. for a proper "chronology." No claim is made for Votan being the brother of Jared. The installment for May 1st has a little information about Clavigero, Votan, etc., while the one for July 24th tells about Captain del Rio's 1787 expedition to the Palenque ruins (which it calls "Otolum." No mention is made regarding Joseph Smith's possible access to the accounts of del Rio and other early explorers of the "Ancient Ruins."
1875 Herbert H. Bancroft publishes his Native Races of the Pacific States, Vol. IV: Antiquities, in which he discusses the Votan legend, Clavigero, Pablo Felix Cabrera, Captain del Rio, etc.
1879 John T. Short publishes his Native Americans of Antiquity, in which he discusses Clavigero, Pablo Felix Cabrera, Captain del Rio, Bancroft's recent work, Votan, etc. On pp. 144-45 Short reprints a long paragraph on the Book of Mormon, the Jaredites, etc., followed immediately by an introduction to the Votan legend. Short makes no connection between the Jaredites and Votan, but Mormon Elders William H. Sharp, Moses Thatcher and B. H. Roberts would point out purported connections in their writings of 1879, 1881 and 1904 (see below). Short's rendition of the Votan tradition would later become a favorite source for Reorganized LDS apologists, trying to defend their claims for Book of Mormon historicity.
1879 - Oct. 1 The LDS Salt Lake Deseret News publishes "Part IX" of an extended article by Elder William H. H. Sharp, on "The Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon," in which the writer says: "In the traditions of the Chiapas, one Votan, a grandson of Noah, came from across the sea, from the great tower, and became the founder of the great Maya civilization. He established the kingdom of Xibalba and built a great city, the ruins of which are those called Palinque, mentioned in a former chapter, and agreeing with the city built by the Jaredites mentioned in the Book of Mormon. This Votan also agrees with the brother of Jared who came from the tower to America, and established in the land where the ruins of Palinque are found, a great and mighty people. This legend was handed down and incorporated in the Chiapas' history, [its] origin having been obtained through the history found recorded upon the 24 plates found by the people of Limhi, and introduced into and upon the plates of Nephi, during the Nephite reign. And thus is the Book of Mormon confirmed, and thus it is shown how the aboriginal races of America became acquainted with the Bible events, and a knowledge of the book or history of the Jaredites, found in the Book of Ether..."
1881 The June and July 1881 issues of LDS periodical The Contributor publishes the third and fourth installments in Elder Moses Thatcher's "Divine Origin of the Book of Mormon," in which the writer "historical evidence" for the purported historicity of the book. Thatcher cites Clavigero, Cabrera, John T. Short, etc., to present a number of evident similarities shared by the ancient legend of Votan and the story of the brother of Jared (as told in the Book of Ether). Elder Thatcher
1881 RLDS Elder Josiah Ells publishes his Prophetic Truth, and on p. 50 says: "Two years after the Book of Mormon appeared in print, Professor Rafenseque, in his Atlantic Journal for 1832, gave a public fac simile of American glyphs found in the ruins of a stone city...These the learned professor denominates the 'elements of the glyphs of Otolum;' and he supposes that by the combination of these elements, words and sentences were formed, constituting the written language of the ancient nations of this continent. By an inspection of the fac simile of the forty-six elementary glyphs, we find all the particulars, which Professor Anthon ascribes to the ["reformed Egyptian"] characters [supplied by Joseph Smith, Jr.]..."
1884 RLDS Bishop Edmund L. Kelley publishes a copy of the "Braden & Kelley Debate," and in his 7th speech he states that prior to the early 1830s most people had no knowledge of America's ancient civilizations and that, therefore, Joseph Smith could not have consulted popular literature to get ideas for writing the Book of Mormon. Kelley then says: "There was one English publication in 1822, but it was never known in this part of the world, and not widely in any; and I doubt if there is a man in the State of Ohio... who ever saw such a work or such an author as that of Fuentes or Del Rio. Mr. Stephens, whom I cited last evening, and who wrote in 1841, a traveler all over this globe, and a man that was versed not only in the English language, but in the Spanish also, in which Del Rio's work was originally written, had never heard of it at the time he first went to Mexico in 1839. But suppose that they had heard of the publication of the work, and that it had been all over the country in 1822, and that it contained anything of these great cities: -- what would it benefit my opponent in this argument? His claim is that this "Romance" was written by one Solomon Spaulding in 1811..."
1888 The Dec. 1888 issue of LDS periodical The Contributor publishes Elder Brigham H. Roberts' article "A New Witness for God: IX," in which Roberts quotes C. S. Rafinisque's 1832 article on the "glyphs of Otulum" in support of the "reformed Egyptian" characters Martin Harris carried to New York City in Feb. 1828.
1889 Hubert H. Bancroft publishes his History of Utah, 1540-1886, and on page 46 says: "In 1843, near Kinderhook, Illinois, in excavating a large mound, six brass plates were discovered of a bell-shape four inches in length and covered with ancient characters... No key has yet been discovered for the interpretation of the engravings upon these brass plates, or of the strange gylphs upon the ruins of Otolum in Mexico, [see] Daniel Wedderburn, in Popular Science Monthly, Dec. 1876..." Bancroft's coupling Rasfinsque's "gylphs of Otolum" with the Kinderhook plates hoax may indicate his lack of confidence in Rasfinsque's attempts in translating them. Bancroft had earlier published a facsimile of the original glyphs from which Rasfinsque did his work (see Bancroft's Native Races of the Pacific States, Vol. IV: Antiquities, 1875, p. 355).
1890 RLDS Apostle William H. Kelley publishes his Presidency and Priesthood, and in chapter 11 quotes Rafinesque and then says: "The reader will please note that these characters, as described, were arranged very much as were those submitted by Messrs. Smith and Harris to Prof. Anthon, Anthon being the witness; yet Prof. Rafenesque's discovery was made subsequent to Mr. Smith's characters being submitted to Prof. Anthon. This also confirms Smith's claim that his characters were true ones, and also further supports the claim of the Book of Mormon..."
1894 RLDS Elder Rudolph Etzenhouser publishes his From Palmyra..., and on pp. 111-15 discusses at length the matter of "Dates of American Antiquites -- When Published," contending that it was not possible "for Joseph Smith to have read works of [American] antiquity, and then have written the Book of Mormon in conformity with the findings of the explorers..." The Mormon apologist expands upon his original discussion of this topic (published in his 1892 The Book Unsealed) to include an admission that one of Alexander von Humboldt's books on the Americas might have been available to pre-1830 readers, but he ignores Robert Southey's 1805 book Madoc, (which cites several Spanish historians), the 1822 del Rio booklet, Ethan Smith's editions of 1823 and 1825 (which cite Humboldt and Spanish historians), Josiah Priest's 1825 book (with lengthy sections on ancient Mexico), as well as several other similar pre-1830 sources available to readers in the area where Joseph Smith lived.
1894 RLDS Elder Henry A. Stebbins publishes his Book of Mormon Lectures. The limited first edition is immediately sold out, but is enlarged and republished in 1901. In his First Lecture Stebbins takes up the issue of what published source material might have been available to Joseph Smith before 1830. He admits the 1822 publication of the Del Rio report, but then says: "We examine other authors, historians, and writers of encyclopedias, and find no proof of any other book upon American antiquities being published in the English language until after the Book of Mormon was copyrighted, but several between 1830 and 1842." Allowing only del Rio as a remotely possible source for Joseph Smith, Stebbins downplays even that possibility by saying that the 1822 booklet was "not... generally known to the learned world... much less... to a humble, poor, and an out of the way class on the American borders. I find no evidence that any other American writer mentioned Del Rio's work before Mr. Priest [in the 1834 edition of American Antiquities]."
1895-1905 LDS Elder George Reynolds compiles his Commentary on the Book of Mormon, the first volume of which is not published until 1955 (almost fifty years after his death). In volume I, pp. 223-224, 235-236, etc., Reynolds refers to what he calls "the myth about Voltan," citing Pablo Felix Cabrera, etc.
1899 LDS Apostle James E. Talmage publishes his Articles of Faith, and in the 15th chapter (on the Book of Mormon) provides a section on "corroborative evidence furnished by modern discoveries." Talmage cites John T. Short's quotation from Clavigaro -- about Votan being at the Tower of Bable, etc. Talmage directs the reader to Elder Thatcher's 1881 Contributor articles for further details. Apostle Talmage also issues this same "corroborative evidence" in his 1899 tract, "The Book of Mormon."
1902 William A. Linn publishes his Story of the Mormons, and in chapter 10 he says: "Orson Pratt, in his "Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon," thought that he found substantial support for Smith's hieroglyphics in... [the] Atlantic Journal for 1832... A facsimile of the entire Tablet may be found on page 355, Vol. IV, Bancroft's "Native Races of the Pacific States." Rafinesque selected these characters from the Tablet, and arranged them in columns alongside of other ancient writings, in order to sustain his argument that they resembled an old Libyan alphabet. Rafinesque was a voluminous writer both on archaeological and botanical subjects, but wholly untrustworthy. Of his Atlantic Journal (of which only eight numbers appeared) his biographer, R. E. Call, says that it had "absolutely no scientific value."... He was very fond of inventing names, and his designation of Palenque as Otolum was only an illustration of this. So much for the 'elementary glyphs.'"
1904 Elder Brigham H. Roberts has his "The Book of Mormon Part II" published in the LDS YMMIA Manual No. 8. On pp. 326-27 this treatise Roberts devotes brief attention to the question: "Did the Book of Mormon antedate works in English on American antiquities, accessible to Joseph Smith, and his associates?" Roberts concludes that only five such works "could at all be accessible to Joseph Smith..." -- these being "Archaeologia Americana," (1820); "View of the Hebrews..." (1825); "American Antiquities" (1833); "History of the American Indians," (1775); and Black's translation of von Humbolt's works on New Spain (1811). In a later edition of his work, Roberts would remove the post-1833 American Antiquities from the list, but would fail to mention that the same writer produced Wonders of Nature in 1825, containing some similar material. Missing from the list is Southey's 1805 Madoc; Boudinot's 1816 Star in the West; the 1822 Del Rio-Cabrera booklet; and several other pertinent volumes Elder Roberts should have been aware of by 1904. His failure to list English versions of del Rio, Clavigero, Torquemada, etc. is puzzling, since he cites these authors in other parts of his treatise. On page 294 Roberts compares the Mayan folk hero Votan to the Book of Mormon's "brother of Jared," however he cites the old Clavigero version of the story, rather than the elaboration given by Cabrera in the 1822 booklet. It appears to have escaped Elder Roberts' attention that highly relevant books by von Humboldt, Southey, the old Spanish historians, etc. would have been accessible to writers like Solomon Spalding when Joseph Smith was yet a child.
1910 Charles A. Shook publishes his Cumorah Revisited and devotes considerable to early reports of American antiquities. On pp. 129-138 he discusses "Archaeological Knowledge in 1830," citing the 1822 del Rio account and some other early sources which mention del Rio. On page 120 Shook discusses the Mayan folk hero Votan, citing John T. Short's 1879 book. Short, in turn, makes use of Clavigaro's material on Votan, at the expense of Cabrara's elaborations on the legend (as first published in the 1822 Del Rio-Cabrera booklet).
1917 The June 1917 issue of LDS periodical Improvement Era publishes the final installment of Elder Thomas W. Brookbank's article "A Study in American Hebraic Names," in which Brookbank cites Pablo Felix Cabrera, Bancroft, etc. in support of the conclusion that the Mayan folk hero Votan bore a Hebraic name.
1958 James D. Bales publishes his The Book of Mormons? and devotes two chapters (pp. 160-240) to the topic of what published source materials were available regarding American antiquities, prior to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. In this lengthy discussion Bales several times mentions the 1822 del Rio booklet but does not single out its contents as a probable source for anything found in the Book of Mormon.
Some More Recent Developments
Charles A. Shook's 1910 Cumorah Revisited has never been adequately responded to by Mormon writers and scholars. Although Shook's volume was a child of its times, and far from being a "most correct book," it did methodically address the old LDS claims regarding pre-Columbian America and the Book of Mormon. Specifically, Shook demonstrated that Mormonism and modern science were fast diverging in offering explanations for the first peopling of North and South America, for the rise of highly organized cultures in the Americas, on the technology employed by those cultures, the dating of their respective development and decline, which ancient Americans actually produced written texts, etc. etc.
Charles A. Shook (in 1910) and James D. Bales (in 1958) also effectively demonstrated that there were numerous books, journal articles, and newspaper accounts of the "American antiquities" available for study (and plagiarizing) well before the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Mormon intellectuals may have never responded openly to what Shook and Bales had to say, but they obviously did take note of certain facts presented by those critics. The Mormon writers of the twentieth were far more circumspect in presenting "archaeological evidence" for the Book of Mormon, and in offering literary evidence of Smith's undeniable "ignorance" of American Indian origins and achievements. The old LDS arguments, designed for delivery before an inquiring non-Mormon audience were slowly retired and eventually replaced with far less direct and concrete assertions. All the while, however, those same Mormon writers and apologists continued to offer the same, worn-out explanations when "preaching to the choir" of credulous Latter Day Saint audiences. Probably this recourse to the old party line continued more as a product of ecclesiastical inertia than from any covert plan for continuing religious indoctrination. When a Mormon elder assured his listeners in 1950 that contemporary archaeology was proving the Book of Mormon true -- or that before 1830 practically nothing was known about the early Indians -- he was simply passing on what he himself had been told decades before.
The second half of the twentieth century saw the popularization of Fawn Brodie's No man Knows My History, the rise of the "New Mormon History," and the anti-Mormon phenomenon personified by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. The verdict of history was finally beginning to seep down to the Mormon roots and have some noticeable effect there. Dan Vogel's 1986 Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon perhaps marked the culmination of the ground swell in Mormon realization that began back when Shook and Bales were still alive. Vogel not only made mention of obscure early sources like the 1822 del Rio-Cabrera booklet, he demonstrated how widespread the knowledge in them and about them had become by 1830. But Vogel differs from Shook and Bales in at least one important respect: those writers were vehemently anti-Mormon, attacking both the religion and its scriptures, and, in the process, reducing all their arguments to one ultimate message: "Nephites did not write the book, Solomon Spalding wrote it!"
This conclusion was far too narrow a reconstruction of Mormon beginnings to suit the minds of investigators like Vogel. The "Spalding theory," as many called the claims relayed by Shook, Bales, et al., ignored the social and religious environment of the earliest Mormons -- and it ignored the fact that the Book of Mormon obviously reflects many elements and items from the late 1820s life and belief of its earliest advocates. After all, from where else could have the book's probable author (Joseph Smith, Jr.) derived a Book of Mormon name like "Gadianton" than from the 1822 publication of Pablo Felix Cabrera's reference to "Gaditani merchants" and "Gaditanian columns?" Where else could a struggling young author find inspiration for writing about destroyed ancient American cities, but in the 1822 publication of Antonio del Rio's exploration of the Palenque ruins? And, if not from those exact sources, then from other published reports of a similar nature, in wide circulation before the appearance of the Book of Mormon?
As clever as these kinds of arguments tend to be, they are not fully convincing to the Book of Mormon believer and they may ultimately prove equally unconvincing to the unprejudiced investigator. For every suspicious thematic element, or line of odd phraseology that can be gleaned from the Book of Mormon, in support of a Joseph Smith authorship, half a dozen more might also be plucked out in support of an argument favoring Solomon Spalding, or a young Sidney Rigdon, or some other potential writer whose literary scribblings predate those of Smith by years or decades. Unless the application of "higher criticism" to the Book of Mormon can effectively eliminate other "voices" in the text than that of Smith, his probable role can still reasonably be viewed as that of a late contributor and final redactor only.
In 1973, Michael D. Coe, professor of anthropology at Yale University, offered a scathing, non-Mormon perspective on Mormons and Archaeology," which was published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought VIII:2. In his paper Coe showed up the traditional Mormon inability (or lack of interest) in establishing pre-Columbian chronologies coordinating dates derived from the Book of Mormon with those produced by modern science. Using the 1822 del Rio account, a fanciful writer in 1828 (or 1812, for that matter), might construct a tale about how white-skinned, Old World peoples built the Palenque ceremonial center as a "mighty work of the Nephites" in the years between 600 BCE and 385 CE -- nothing wrong with that, in a work of fantasy. But, as Coe points out, how can Mormons reconcile that fantasy with the reality of the same ceremonial center having actually been built around the year 600 CE? As Coe says: "I can only sympathize with the Mormon scholar who has to work that one out."
As mentioned above, "the Mormon scholar" may not have much to say back to a scientist like Dr. Coe, but the scientist's communication still makes an impact upon the educated Mormon mind -- eventually. In an a subtle admission that would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago, the RLDS writers of a 1997 article on the Book of Mormon direct their readers to Dee F. Green's "Book of Mormon Archaeology -- The Myths and the Alternatives," as published in the 1969 Dialogue IV:2. No references here to Josiah Priest, or Rafinesque, or Baldwin, or Pidgeon. To witness the last gasp of Mormon anti-intellectualism dependent upon those forgotten voices of the past, the contemporary investigator may consult the works of the RLDS fundamentalist "restoration branch" regurgitators, or to output of LDS throwbacks like Phyllis Carol Olive or some of the writers published by the BYU-based F.A.R.M.S.
An excerpt from Lin Ostler Stack's 1983 Sunstone article is perhaps appropriate at this point. The writer of "In Search of the Land of Mormon" says:
The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate, observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere. Even for the breeziest Mormon, these are strong words, Indignant LDS readers no doubt cried "What about the stela stone with Lehi's vision engraved on it? What about Jack West's 1954 missionary popular Trial of the Stick of Joseph or its comic-illustrated version Book of Mormon on Trial?" Those who have kept up to date may have entreated, "What about David A. Palmer's 1981 In Search of Cumorah?" or more compellingly, "What of the excavations at El Mirador?"
The answer, of course, is that wherever contemporary Mormon scholars do make a meaningful contribution to scientific knowledge, that finding and the communication of its contents will almost certainly do nothing whatever to support the traditional LDS/RLDS claims regarding the Book of Mormon. On the other hand, such contributions of knowledge -- whether from Mormons or from non-Mormons -- can add one more piece to the puzzle of reconstructing the pre-Columbian (and pre-1830) past. Some such additions may eventually prove to be faulty ones, but they will stand or fall within the context of their relationship to other modern discoveries, not because of how well they appear to uphold time-worn notions of Hebrew Nephites and white-skinned builders of ancient Central American cities.
In 1787 Captain Antionio del Rio marched into the jungles of Chiapas in order to take an actual look at the puzzling ruins located there. He might have simply sat down in a local inn and made out a report based upon what he thought the ruins were, or based upon what other people wanted the "stone houses" to be -- but that is not what he did. Instead, he went, looked, and from his observation concluded that the wonderous "stone houses" had been built by the Indians of a past era. Perhaps, he thought, those Indians may have taken in some ideas and methods from another culture in order to construct their architectual masterpiece. But, in the end, he had to admit that he did not know that for sure. He separated his opinion from his observation and made his report, including in it the first illustrations of Mayan glyphs ever to reach the outside world.
Today the New World Archaeological Foundation sponsors scientific excavations in Chiapas. They follow in the tracks of del Rio and perhaps they will continue to emulate his example -- of separating wishful thinking from actual observation. So long as the modern explorers continue to follow that path, Lin Ostler Stack can rest assured that "'Mormon archaeology' is no longer something that brings chuckles in Gentile circles."
The young Joseph Smith, Jr. probably never read the 1822 del Rio-Cabrera booklet. And, if he saw information excerpted from it in Yates and Moulton's 1824 history of New York, Smith probably made no use of what he read there in preparing the text of the Book of Mormon for publication. Pablo Felix Cabrera -- as Mormon scholars later realized -- offers little material from which to construct or defend a "Nephite record." His Votan does not fit well into del Rio's Palenque and does not provide anything useful for Mormon apologists either. It is the earlier voice of Clavigero -- almost muted by Cabrera in the 1822 publication -- that resonates with the Mormon story. Clavigero's Voltan provided grist for Robert Southey's mill in 1805, and he may have served the needs of Solomon Spalding equally well in the decade that followed. Spalding never read del Rio and Cabrera, but he did read Southey's Madoc, that singular specimen of Celtic Votanism, complete with numerous citations of Clavigero's account of Central American prehistory.
Did Solomon Spalding steal bits and pieces from Southey's Madoc? Did he appropriate Southey's reference to a trans-oceanic traveler carrying the light producing urim and thummim within his submarine barque, perhaps all the way to the Americas? Did he take Clavigero's story of a civilization-building, ocean-sailing, refugee from the Tower of Bable? Did he then "glue" the two excerpted ideas together, to produce Moriancumr the Jaredite -- who flees from that same tower, takes magical shining stones into his submarine barques, and carried his people across the ocean to a new world? Did Joseph Smith steal "Gadianton" from Dr. Cabrera? And did he steal Moriancumr the Jaredite from Solomon Spalding -- even if totally unwittingly, through the agency of a backsliding Campbellite clergyman?